High School Sports

One goal is all Bluffton girls need to advance in soccer playoffs

As she stood on the Bluffton High School soccer field covered from head to toe in grass and dirt, Madison Putich clutched at her right hand as she kept it propped up with the support of an ice bag.

"I might have broken it," she said.

No one would have noticed judging by the smile on her face.

Powered by the junior midfielder's goal in the 18th minute, the Bobcats slipped past Airport 1-0 on a rain-drenched Wednesday night to advance to the third round of the Class 3-A playoffs.

"I was dribbling down quick and I just slid it in the corner," she said of her goal as she grinned from ear to ear.

With the win, Bluffton will head to Columbia on Friday to take on top-seeded Brookland-Cayce, which cruised past Myrtle Beach 6-0 on Wednesday. The Bearcats (20-4), who beat Bluffton 4-0 earlier this season, sent the Bobcats home in the second round of the playoffs a year ago.

"It always feels good to win, but we know we've got more work to do on Friday," coach Mike Manning said. "That's a tall task."

Manning and Co. can only hope the Brookland-Cayce confines provide a much calmer surrounding than the one Bluffton experienced in its latest victory, as the Bobcats (12-10) spent the last several minutes of the first half playing through a heavy downpour. That preceded a nearly one-hour rain delay, which allowed the field just enough time to drain the pools of standing water.

"I think it makes it more fun, more interesting," Putich said. "I liked it."

The downtime seemed to benefit the Eagles, who came charging out of the gates in the second half. It took a bevy of saves by goalkeeper Brittany Hundley to stave off Airport, which outshot the Bobcats 7-2.

"They had a long time to think about (the deficit) and get stewed up about it," Manning said. "They came out and played a great second half. I thought they dominated possession the second half but we were able to hang with them and keep at it."

And now the Bobcats are headed to the Lower State quarterfinals. Whether Putich's right hand decides to join them remains to be seen.

"We've become such a better team from the beginning of the year (and) two years ago," she said. " ... We don't have to worry about anything in the past. We can definitely bring it on and win if we want to."