Soccer: Heathwood Highlanders in first finale

05/09/2013 11:16 PM

05/09/2013 11:17 PM

Heathwood Hall took a historic step in SCISA girls soccer on Thursday, scoring a 2-1 semifinal win over visiting Hilton Head Christian to advance to the Class 3A championship match for the first time.

“We’ve been sniffing around in the semifinals for a couple of years now, so this is huge to finally get a chance to play for our first title,” said Highlanders coach Curtis Player.

Hilton Head Christian opened the scoring with a goal in the fourth minute by Allison Meeder, but the inspired Highlanders responded with tallies in the 16th and 26th minutes to take the lead and turn it over to the defense and senior keeper Grace Smith.

“They knocked us back on our heels with that early goal because we didn’t match their intensity at the start,” Player said. “I was anxious to see how we would respond, and the girls rallied to the cause. Once we got the lead, it was up to Grace and our strong back four to make it stand up.”

Smith, who is taking her game to William & Mary, has allowed three goals against SCISA foes this season.

“I’ve been on a ton of soccer teams and this one has the best team atmosphere I’ve ever been around,” Smith said. “When we went down 1-0, we trusted each other to be able to respond.

“This is the payoff for all the work we’ve put in as a team. It feels great to finally get past that Thursday barrier in the playoffs.”

Heathwood Hall evened the score in the 16th minute with a goal by Erin Ress off an assist from Katie Bell. Ten minutes later, Meg Evans hammered home her own rebound for the game winner after Eagles keeper Meaghan Gillis saved the first shot.

“It wasn’t always pretty, but the bottom line is all that matters at this point in the season,” said Player, whose team opened the playoff on Monday with a 1-0 win over Pinewood Prep.

The Highlanders (16-8) will face either Cardinal Newman or Porter-Gaud in Saturday’s title game at 10 a.m. at the College of Charleston’s Patriots Point stadium.

“Heathwood is so well coached and is so well disciplined and that’s what got us today,” said HHC coach Ben Gerdts, whose team finished 16-9. “We couldn’t answer with our possessions after we fell behind the way they did.”

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