Tori Zeltner couldn’t help but cry.
The Myrtle Beach midfielder had just taken a head to the face against North Myrtle Beach on May 7, and the only thing running down her face faster than the tears was the blood coming from her nose. The Seahawks were down to their last game and a half of the regular season, and with the playoffs starting the following week, the thought of not being involved in the final few games of her high school career was eating up the Toast of the Coast Girls Soccer Player of the Year.
“She was just determined she was going to play,” Seahawks coach Mary Jo Hajek said. “She was crying – not because it hurt, but because she thought she wasn’t going to be able to play. You have to hand it to a kid like that.”
Zeltner said her “heart dropped” when she believed she was done.
Instead, Zeltner finished that game – a 4-0 win over the Chiefs. She then came out the next night wearing a face guard in the regular-season finale victory against St. James.
The senior donned the shield for the first two playoff games before playing her final high school game with only a sponge shoved inside her re-set nose.
“The pain did not bother me; it was no more than tweaking your ankle,” she said. “But I [wanted to know] how long I was going to be out for.
“It was kind of uncomfortable. I couldn’t see out of my peripheral. … What was I going to do? It’s not like I use my nose a lot.”
That sacrificial attitude was there even before the break. It helped her wrap up her career by scoring 10 goals and add five assists for a Myrtle Beach team that finished 10-0 in region play, 17-2 overall and advanced to the third round of the state playoffs. The Seahawks fell to eventual state champion Hilton Head.
Not before, however, Zeltner could be recognized for everything she had accomplished.
The four-year starter and two-time Toast of the Coast honoree was named the Region VII-AAA Player of the Year and to the Class AAA All-State team. In the process, she also earned a spot playing collegiately for The Citadel.
The cadet-driven program, she said, will be good for her personally and athletically. The military school known for its constant attrition battle also seems like a great fit.
“She’s willing to put in the work,” Hajek said. “She’s played club soccer and high school soccer. She didn’t get that good by taking it easy. She’ll be successful down there because she’s going in knowing it’s going to be tough.”
Contact IAN GUERIN at email@example.com.