T-Breds return to title match, end Jackets’ playoff run
SOUTH AIKEN 5, NORTH AUGUSTA 0
South Aiken’s undefeated girls’ soccer team wasn’t taking anything for granted heading into Monday night’s Class AAAA Lower State championship game against North Augusta.
It didn’t matter that the top-ranked T-Breds had twice beaten the ninth-ranked Yellow Jackets, by a combined score of 8-1, in a 10-0 romp through Region 5-AAAA. Not for this group of seniors, state champions as sophomores, so they altered their pre-game routine heading into the final home game of their high school careers.
The usual meeting an hour before game time became an hour and a half Monday, and it paid off – that extra planning led directly to a couple of first-half goals in the T-Breds’ 5-0 win that has them playing for a state championship for the second time in three years.
“We all just told each other we can’t walk in thinking we’re gonna win just because we’ve beat them before,” said senior Gracie Beeson, who had two goals and an assist. “I think once we got one (goal), the ball started rolling and we just got more excited knowing that the next trip was state.”
Up next for the T-Breds is the last team to beat them – Eastside, which eliminated South Aiken in penalty kicks in last year’s state semifinals. They’re set for a 6:30 p.m. meeting Friday at Irmo High School.
Beeson got the scoring started 15 minutes in, knocking the ball into the net after Jordan Myers’ pass to her was deflected. The score remained 1-0 until a late scoring burst to end the first half.
Natalie Thompson scored an unassisted goal from long range after a failed clearance attempt came to rest at her feet, and she lofted the ball over the North Augusta defense to make it 2-0 in the 35th minute. Then in the 40th, Mckenzie Peskar scored from in close off a Beeson assist for a 3-0 lead.
Beeson added a second goal on a breakaway, assisted by Ally Bollig, in the 58th minute to go ahead 4-0. Megan Musick capped the scoring in the 67th minute when she took a pass from Peskar and fired it on net, through the gloves of North Augusta goalkeeper Samantha Benner.
South Aiken head coach Dave Mihoulides gave his team the weekend off after a grueling 2-0 victory Friday at second-ranked Myrtle Beach. So when they reconvened a little ahead of schedule Monday, they had a classroom session to really dial up a winning strategy.
“Really, two of our first three goals is how we drew it up on the board in the classroom session,” Mihoulides said. “It worked like clockwork. The girls were able to go ahead and institute the game plan. It was great.”
The Yellow Jackets fought hard against a constant barrage, but the T-Breds were simply too much to handle. North Augusta’s season came to an end a step short of the state championship match after a terrific run through the playoffs as Region 5-AAAA’s No. 2 seed. After a first-round bye, North Augusta beat North Myrtle Beach at home in the second round and then went on the road to beat Bluffton to reach Monday night’s semifinal.
“I’m really proud of what they accomplished. I’m really proud they made it to Lower State,” said North Augusta head coach Ed Owens. “This is only my third year with the program and so for them to go this far, it’s just a great group of ladies. I’m gonna miss them.
“We knew coming in this was an uphill battle. Dave and his team are solid. If you look at their stats, they’re, what, 18-0-1, they’ve got 111 goals for and only been scored on six times. We knew coming in it was gonna be an uphill battle, but I’m just thrilled to have been able to work with this group of ladies.”