High School Sports

Eagles edge White Knoll in girls soccer opener for program milestone

The celebration paused briefly Monday while officials tried to determine what they had seen.

Claire Martin scored off a run up the right side, her shot sneaking inside the left post and through a hole in the net, rolling toward the Beaufort Middle School track.

The Beaufort High School junior delivered the game-winning goal in stoppage time to help the Eagles defeat White Knoll 2-1 and advance in the Class 4-A girls soccer playoffs.

After some initial confusion among the referees as to whether the shot was wide, they counted the goal.

The celebration continued.

The Eagles didn't mind the wait. They have learned patience.

The playoff victory was the first under coach Terry Rawlins. He thinks it might be the first in the program's history.

Beaufort High, Region 8-AAAA champions, will play host to James Island on Wednesday. James Island won 2-0 at Sumter on Monday.

The victory Monday was a culmination of building from the junior varsity level, Rawlins said. He said his assistant, Shawn Conners, who coaches the younger group, has developed a solid feeder system.

The Eagles remained focused, said Amanda Conners, who scored the game's first goal off a Martin assist in the 60th minute.

"We were so ready to win the first (playoff) game," Conners said. "We were like, 'You know what guys? We have the skill, we have the talent. Get it together and work as a team, that's the only way we're going to win.'"

When playoff nerves led to a sluggish start, Beaufort High leaned on the defense of Carmen Alvarez and goalkeeper Carson Moore. The Timberwolves had numerous chances off corner kicks during the first half but were shut out.

Moore stopped a straight-on shot from 10 yards out in the 28th minute. Early in the second half, the Eagles survived a header off the crossbar. And later, Moore directed a shot from the 18 over the bar.

Moore, a senior who earned the starting role her final season, had not allowed a goal in nine games before Monday.

"She's a good example of what hard work can do for a person," Rawlins said. "She's in control."

White Knoll wasn't giving up much on the other end. The Eagles didn't have a corner kick until halfway through the second half. Conners had two second-half chances before breaking both teams' drought.

The Timberwolves scored on a Joanna Lloyd header in the 76th minute. The equalizer looked like it would send the match to overtime before Martin broke free during stoppage time.

The goal ignited the large crowd at Beaufort Middle, the Eagles' home this season while the renovated high school field grows in. Rawlins had to step towards midfield after the game to be heard better.

"They're still buzzing," he said.

Beaufort High hosted the No. 4 seed after winning a second consecutive region title, this time without dropping a game in league play. The work of players like Moore has set the tone for what is otherwise a young group, Rawlins said.

And now, a breakthrough victory.

"There's something going on," Rawlins said. "There's a lot of young girls looking up to the Beaufort High School program."