Perfection: T-Breds win 2nd state title in 3 years, wrap up undefeated season
SOUTH AIKEN 4, EASTSIDE 1
COLUMBIA — The top-ranked South Aiken girls’ soccer team knew that second-ranked Eastside would be a formidable challenger.
The T-Breds also knew they’d need to come out the gates quickly in order to avoid an early lull against a team that would play hard from the opening kick.
So they went on the attack early and didn’t let up, all but wrapping up a perfect season before halftime at the Class AAAA state championship. The final whistle was just confirmation of what everyone at Irmo High School on Friday already knew.
South Aiken was just too good, too relentless to be beaten.
The T-Breds led 3-0 at the half on their way to a 4-1 win, wrapping up an undefeated season with a second state title in the last three years.
Head coach Dave Mihoulides knew he had a group – a combination of strong senior leaders and talented youth – that had the potential to be really good. They proved him right night after night, and Friday presented a final hurdle that they not only cleared – they soared over it.
“I’m so proud of the girls. We do sessions and all that stuff, but man, these girls bring it every single night,” Mihoulides said. “To go undefeated and to go out with this group that won states two years ago, they wanted to get revenge from last year. They felt like they were a little slighted last year, so they had a little chip on their shoulder. They came to work and they came to play, and I think we really wrapped it up by the end of the first half. I’m just extremely proud of the girls. They took care of business tonight.”
If a perfect season and second state title weren’t enough at stake, there was also that revenge factor. Eastside beat South Aiken in penalty kicks in last year’s Upper State championship, but this time around the T-Breds made sure no extra time would be necessary.
Three near misses in the first 12 minutes showed that South Aiken was wasn’t wasting any time, and Jordan Myers put the T-Breds on the scoreboard with a rocket in the 13th minute for a 1-0 lead.
Shortly after that, the T-Breds (19-0-1) drew a corner kick. Megan Musick put the ball exactly where it needed to be, and Ally Bollig headed it into the net for a 2-0 advantage 20 minutes in.
Musick capped off the first half with another long-range goal through the goalkeeper’s gloves in the 37th minute, her second in as many games, and suddenly Eastside found itself needing to score at least three goals against a team that had only allowed a total of six all year long.
Instead, the Eagles were only allowed three shots on goal all night.
“Plaudits for the back line again, all year long. They’ve just done it, man. Time after time, Hailey Roth especially,” said Mihoulides. ”… I’ve told her from the beginning of the season, the center back is the one that should be doing the least amount of running. If you organize things – I love it that she’s got such a big mouth, because she sure organizes things. She didn’t have to run two or three times during the game, but that’s about it. That back line, plaudits to them. Whoever’s back there, they take care of business.”
Eastside put one on the board in the 59th minute off a corner kick that created chaos in front of the net, but by that point it was already all but over.
All-State senior Gracie Beeson, confined to the sideline with an injury last year, capped the scoring in the 71st minute off an assist from future Lander teammate Haleigh Bollig. She used that time watching last year’s Upper State final to her advantage, and she knew coming into Friday night what to expect from an Eagles team she wanted to face more than any other.
“We knew that Eastside is a team that comes out 100 percent. They don’t take anything for granted,” Beeson said. “Going into this game, we all had nerves and we knew we couldn’t wait until 20 minutes in like we did against Dreher (in the second round of the playoffs, still a 6-0 win) to start scoring. Right off the bat, we just had to go at it as hard as we could. We did, and it turned out great.”
She was confined to the sidelines at the end again this year, this time because the match was already well out of reach. It was a different kind of clock watching, and they were different tears cried on the sideline this year for South Aiken.
Beeson said it was a bittersweet ending for the T-Breds’ large senior class, most of whom have signed to play collegiately at different schools.
Ultimately, though, it had to end – and they chose a perfect way to do it.