2014 All-Area Girls Soccer: BA's Miranda Weslake, HHH coach Ernie Suozzi top list

sfastenau@beaufortgazette.com and ksalter@islandpacket.comJuly 6, 2014 

Beaufort Academy's Miranda Weslake (4) heads the ball over Oakbrook Prep defender Grace Baghdady (8) during Saturday's SCISAA 1-A/2-A championship game at Heathwood Hall.

VAN HOPE — Special to the Packet

David Byrne asked a lot by asking his program's best player to play out of position.

Beaufort Academy's Miranda Weslake played midfield for the Eagles out of necessity. She is probably more comfortable up top at forward, where she shines as a dynamic scorer.

Byrne needed a distributor and someone to make things happen.

Weslake obliged, and helped lead Beaufort Academy on a crazy run during her time on the high school team. The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet All-Area Girls Soccer Player of the Year helped lead the Eagles to the state championship game each of her four high school seasons.

"I liked playing there for BA, because obviously the level of pressure and intensity isn't as high as it is in club soccer and college soccer," Weslake said. "Even though that wasn't my natural position, I know soccer and understand how to play it and where the ball is supposed to go. It helps the team-- they know where they are supposed to be and where to make their runs. I could set up goals and score goals myself. I would never be able to play it at club and college level. It's so much work."

Weslake scored 27 goals in 14 games her senior season, ending with her third consecutive trip to the SCISAA state final. She didn't make the trip when the Eagles won her freshman season, but won a state championship as a junior.

She scored three goals during her final state championship appearance, a 6-5 loss to Oakbrook Prep. The last was a header off a corner kick after Weslake heard Oakbrook Prep coach Elizabeth Myers yell for one of her players to pay full attention to the Eagles' star.

Didn't matter.

"If I lived closer to Clemson, I would love to watch her play every game," Myers said after the final. "She's so fluid. Nothing rattles her much. It's hard to play someone like that, because you want to get under their skin a little bit."

Weslake is already in Clemson for the summer, taking two classes in the morning and working out in the afternoon. She committed to the Tigers in 2012 and never wavered.

Now she's adjusting to college life, having moved on from her tiny Lady's Island High School to the sprawling campus in the Upstate.

She said small class sizes during the summer have helped ease the transition.

"I like it a lot here," she said. "It's really awesome."

COACH OF THE YEAR: ERNIE SUOZZI

Four years, four state championships.

When deciding on an area coach of the year, it doesn't get much clearer than that. But Suozzi's task was by no means easy this time around, even if his team made it appear that way. Suozzi replaced nine starters from last year's title-winning team, a staggering amount.

The only two holdovers -- and they were good ones, to be sure -- were all-state midfielders Amanda and Ashley Green, who eventually teamed up to score the winner in a 1-0 victory over Chapin in the Class 3-A state final.

What Suozzi does best, and perhaps why he is able to find consistency despite turnover in personnel, is mold his players into a creative system of attack. His method focuses on continuous movement, finding open spaces and providing quick touches on the ball.

At a level of the sport where many teams resort to a more route one, long-ball over the top approach to offense, Suozzi's squad shines and dominates. He is also not afraid to tinker with formations, as he did when he shifted to a 3-5-2 for the second half of the Chapin game.

In short, Suozzi is an innovator and, as the last four years have proved, a winner.

The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet All-Area Girls Soccer Team

Coach of the Year: Ernie Suozzi, Hilton Head Island High

Player of the Year: Miranda Weslake, Beaufort Academy

All-area team

D Carmen Alvarez, Beaufort High

Comment: Senior scored 11 goals, was a North-South selection and all-region for a third year

MF Jillian Koves, Bluffton

Comment: Smart player who created her own shot, with good ball control

F Charlotte Covington, Hilton Head Prep

Comment: Striker produced 13 goals and 13 assists as an eighth-grader.

GK Kayley Gilbert, Beaufort High

Comment: Junior recorded seven shutouts and was all-Region 8-AAAA

D Brennan O'Gorman, Hilton Head Island High

Comment: Highlight-reel goal in Lower State final punctuated solid defensive campaign for all-region selection

MF Ashley Green, Hilton Head Island High

Comment: Attacking threat in the midfield and all-state selection headed with sister to Armstrong Atlantic

MF Amanda Green, Hilton Head Island High

Comment: 3-A all-state selection scored winning goal this spring in state championship game

F Lexi Lainhart, Hilton Head Island High

Comment: Speedy Hilton Head Christian transfer made an immediate impact

MF Alyssa Lane, Hilton Head Christian

Comment: Team captain scored 10 goals and was all-region and North-South as a sophomore

F Audrey Bensch, Hilton Head Christian

Comment: Senior finished with team-leading 17 goals and nine assists

MF Miranda Weslake, Beaufort Academy

Comment: Creative scorer finished with 27 goals in 14 games

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