Irmo took over the top spot in the Class 4A boys soccer rankings by virtue of its 3-1 win over preseason No. 1 Northwestern in the Lake Murray Challenge championship match on Sunday at Chapin.
Ironically, Northwestern capped an undefeated season by beating Irmo 3-1 in the Class 4A state title bout last spring.
This time, the Yellow Jackets spotted the two-time defending state champion Trojans a 1-0 lead on an early penalty kick, but tied the score before intermission and dominated in the second half.
A.J. Rogers brought Irmo even with a goal at 36:37 of the first half. Matt Sieverding scored what proved to be the game winner with 16:32 left in the match, and Matt Manter put the verdict on ice with a tally three minutes later.
Senior midfielder Emmett Lunceford, who was named the tournament MVP, had two assists in the finale and Rob Sullivan was the winner in goal.
The Yellow Jackets advanced to the championship round by defeating Chapin 5-2 in the semifinals on Saturday. Connor Dunbaker led the charge with a three goals. Lunceford and fellow senior midfielder Zach Acree also found the back of the net. Acree also had three assists. Matt Freeman was credited with one helper.
Irmo went 1-0-1 in group play, and qualified as the one wild card team in the final four.
The Jackets opened the tournament on Friday with a 4-0 win over Greenwood. Acree had two goals, while Manter and Rogers posted one apiece. Lunceford (2), Joe Bibona and Matt Floyd picked up assists.
Irmo then dropped a 2-1 PK decision to Darlington Soccer Academy on Saturday morning. Acree had the Jackets lone goal prior to the shootout.
“We are a little bit different this year because we don’t have a many returning players as we did a year ago,” said veteran Jackets coach Phil Savitz.
“So for us to win the tournament and beat Northwestern is a big early step for this team. I was really pleased by the way we reacted to giving up a penalty kick so early (in the championship match).”
Lunceford, Acree, Sieverding, Oliver Nobles, Billy Padula and keepers Sullivan and Stephen Arneson form the veteran core of the new-look team.