MYRTLE BEACH | In a matchup that has become a postseason staple, Brookland-Cayce netted a pair of second-half goals to edge Myrtle Beach 2-1 on Wednesday at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium in the second round of the Class AAA girls soccer playoffs.
With the match tied at 1, Noel McDaniel finished off a loose ball after a cross with just less than two minutes to play in the second half to seal the win for the Bearcats.
“One cross can catch the whole team off guard,” Myrtle Beach senior midfielder Maggie Helmig said. “We were all caught over on the left, they crossed it over on the right, we don’t have numbers back and they sneak one in. Two minutes. It’s a tough break.”
The game marked the third consecutive season in which the Seahawks and Bearcats have met in the second round. Myrtle Beach won in 2009 and Brookland-Cayce won in 2008. Both times the winner went on to reach the Lower State final.
“Hopefully next year will be our year again,” Myrtle Beach coach Beth Tucci said. “Unfortunately we met them in the second round. If we would have been the three or four seed in our region (VII-AAA), we would have had an easier go of it. But that’s just the luck of the draw sometimes.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game, and it was. It hurts. It’s tough. It’s going to sting for a while.”
The Bearcats (16-6-1), who entered the game ranked No. 5 in Class AAA in the S.C. Soccer Coaches Association’s rankings, put pressure on Myrtle Beach early by building offensive attacks, but had a tough time getting off solid shots on goal in the game’s early minutes.
The Seahawks (11-12-0, No. 9 in Class AAA) found success on counter attacks as halftime approached and took the lead in the 22nd minute when freshman Cameron Crutchfield blasted a shot from just outside the left corner of the penalty box.
The sides played even the rest of the half, but the Bearcats turned up the offensive attack over the game’s final 40 minutes, which eventually paid off when Brookland-Cayce’s Kacee Merritt finished off an errant header from a Seahawks defender in the 61st minute.
“A couple of mistakes, and you can’t afford to have big mistakes because good teams will punish you,” Tucci said. “They are an excellent team.”
The Seahawks had a couple of solid chances at retaking the lead, including a missed free kick by Crutchfield after a handball just outside the penalty box in the 63rd minute and a header from Meg Singleton off a Helmig corner kick that slipped over the crossbar in the 68th minute.
The Bearcats had a chance to score with just over six minutes to play, but senior Caroline Springs cleared a loose ball off the back line to keep the score even.
The season-ending loss was hard to grasp for Myrtle Beach’s six seniors, many of whom have been playing together since they were young.
“Our seniors are a huge part of this team,” Tucci said. “It was evident throughout this season ... They are the heart and soul of this team. They fought as hard as they could. They left it all on the field.
“Seniors always take it hard and it’s especially tough for me because I’ve coached this group since they were freshmen, so I wanted it for them as much as they wanted it for themselves,” Tucci said. “It’s hard to see them like this. I know they fought hard, but we let it slip away.”
The Bearcats will face either Hilton Head or Dreher in the third round.