The closest thing to a blemish South Aiken had on its resume this year prior to this week was a tie against Myrtle Beach in the first game of the season.
On Friday, the Seahawks were left looking at another matchup and wondering what could have been.
Myrtle Beach fell one game shy of the lower state finals after a 2-0 loss to the Thoroughbreds at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium in the third round of the Class 4A girls soccer state playoffs. South Aiken, the No. 1 team in the state — and one loaded with college commitments — is still alive for its second championship in three years while the Seahawks will have to call it a season.
“They’re swinging the ball around and passing the ball around, and that’s normally what we do,” Myrtle Beach coach Blair Mueller said. "The style of play we were playing was not how we know how to play, not how we practice.
"I think sometimes you just have that day when you can’t find your own rhythm.”
That was evident early against South Aiken, the top-ranked team in Class 4A coming into the postseason.
The Thoroughbreds controlled possession throughout, leaving the Seahawks to give the appearance that they were chasing throughout. It didn’t help that South Aiken scored first.
Much like Wednesday’s second-round win over Hilton Head, the Seahawks trailed in the opening half against the Thoroughbreds after senior Haleigh Bollig made good on a penalty kick just 10 minutes into the game.
And with 11 minutes left in the second half, Jordan Myers made it a 2-0 score when she dribbled around a defender and finished from 15 feet out.
Unlike the win that helped the Seahawks advance to Friday, there was no epic comeback. South Aiken (17-0-1) played smart with the ball throughout, and after they garnered their two-goal lead, they successfully killed out the final 11 minutes of clock.
Myrtle Beach’s first shot on goal came three minutes into the second half, and neither that one or another that followed a few minutes later had much of a chance to find the back of the net.
The lack of opportunities was similar to the first meeting of the year between these two, when Myrtle Beach had just one shot. The difference that time, was that the Seahawks made it count in a 1-1 season-opening tie in the Michael Nash tournament.
“I don’t think you put a lot of credence into it because it was so early in the season,” South Aiken coach Dave Mihoulides said. “They were missing players. We were missing players. We go for the here and now. We tapped into coaches who had played them recently. … They were very physical. We’re a posession team. We’re finesse team. So when they come at you like that, you just have to be a little quicker.”
It all added up to prevent Myrtle Beach (19-3-1) from making its fifth appearance in the lower state championship game since the 2004 season. Those deep runs as a whole have been few and far between, with only three others from the county having done so in that span.
And while it didn’t help much in the moments immediately following the loss, Mueller knows the vast majority of her players — including leading scorer Hanna Weissman and a slew of other huge components from this year’s team — will be back in tow.
“We are going to come back very, very solid,” Mueller said. “We have a team that has played fully together and we did lose a few sprinkles in between. But they’re going to grow as a team and only get better. Hopefully they reflect on this feeling and use it for next year.”