High School Sports

Girls teams set for high school soccer playoffs

Ernie Suozzi has been repeating himself all season. He said it before the year began, he echoed it again during region play and preached it once more entering the playoffs.

"The only team that I feel could beat us in-state is ourselves," he said.

Suozzi -- the head coach of the Hilton Head Island High girls soccer team -- knows a thing or two about winning teams. After all, the Seahawks' head man has directed two of his last four clubs to state championships, including last year, when Hilton Head High knocked off Fort Mill, 4-2, in Columbia.

"I don't want it to be cockiness," Suozzi said. "I want to go into the season and set our goals high. These kids can achieve it. You want to shoot for the stars."

Suozzi said before the season began that anything less than a repeat performance as state champions would be a disappointment. But many teams talk about winning it all. So far, the Seahawks back up their talk.

"When we're on our game, we've a very dangerous team," Suozzi said.

Hilton Head High has cruised past its opponents heading into today's playoff opener against Socastee. The Seahawks have reeled off a 20-2 record this year and have rolled through their Region 7-AAA schedule to the tune of an 8-0 record. They'll look to build on their recent success today at home against the Braves in the Class 3-A playoff opener.

"The team is coming together rght now," Suozzi said. " ... We're playing real good ball. Ball movement is real good, the work off the ball. The cohesiveness with the girls has really come along. They like each other."

Suozzi is hoping to get one of those girls close to full strength before the postseason opener, as goalkeeper Lauryn Bush pulled a tendom in her thumb during practice recently and underwent surgery. Suozzi said he hoped to have Bush back in the net today with her hand in a cast.

Either way, the Seahawks seem to be in good shape as they prep for another title run.

"I have a lot of confidence in these young ladies. They've worked hard to get where they're at," Suozzi said. "I've seen them play and I've seen the highs and lows.

"When we're playing good, I haven't seen any high school team that could play with us."

Suozzi's group isn't the only area team in this year's playoffs, however. Rival Bluffton is back in the postseason again after the Bobcats advanced to the second round a season ago before bowing out to Brookland Cayce. The Bobcats also open up playoff action at home, as they will host North Myrtle Beach at Bobcat Stadium.

Beaufort High, meanwhile, will take its recent winning streak into the Class 4-A playoffs at Beaufort Middle School against White Knoll at 7 p.m.. The Eagles (10-9) fought past a difficult non-region slate to claim a perfect 8-0 mark in Region 8-AAAA. It was the Eagles' second straight region championship.

A pair of SCISAA teams have also qualified for postseason play, which is set to get under way Tuesday. Hilton Head Christian, which knocked off rival Prep in the regular season finale, will travel to either Cardinal Newman or Hammond in the Class 3-A playoffs. Beaufort Academy, meanwhile, is still awaiting its postseason destination in the Class 1-A/2-A playoffs.