Nati makes most of chance, becomes star for Myrtle Beach boys soccer team

For The Sun NewsJune 10, 2014 

Helgi Nati Toast Boys Soccer

Myrtle Beach’s Helgi Nati is the Toast of the Coast Boys Soccer Player of the Year.

BY CHARLES SLATE — cslate@thesunnews.com Buy Photo

  • The team

    Player Of The Year

    Helgi Nati

    School | Myrtle Beach

    Class | Senior

    Position | Forward

    Notable | Class AAA All-State selection was first on the team in goals (20) and points (47) while finishing third in assists (seven). Also honored as a member of the Region VII-AAA first-team.

    Marquell Bellamy

    School | Loris

    Class | Junior

    Position | Forward

    Notable | Led Loris to first playoff victory in school history and finished as area’s top overall point producer after scoring 26 goals and adding 31 assists. Named to Class AA All-State team.

    Austin Bolton

    School | North Myrtle Beach

    Class | Sophomore

    Position | Midfielder

    Notable | All-Region VII-AAA first-team selection finished the year with 11 goals and seven assists for a Chiefs squad that returned to the playoffs.

    Wesley DuRant

    School | Socastee

    Class | Senior

    Position | Forward

    Notable | Region VII-AAA Player of the Year, Michael Nash Tournament MVP and North-South All-Star scored 18 goals for the Braves after significant losses from last year’s team.

    Skylar Hribar

    School | Myrtle Beach

    Class | Junior

    Position | Goalie

    Notable | Recorded 15 shutouts in 22 games, allowing an average of 0.49 goals per game. Helped Seahawks to Region VII-AAA title and won two games in penalty kicks.

    Jarrett Lewis

    School | Myrtle Beach

    Class | Senior

    Position | Midfield

    Notable | First-team All-Region VII-AAA and Class AAA All-State selection had a team-high 11 assists for region-champion Seahawks, who advanced to third round of playoffs.

    Blake Marsh

    School | Waccamaw

    Class | Junior

    Position | Midfielder

    Notable | Named to the Class AA All-State team after scoring 21 goals and adding six assists for a Waccamaw team that advanced to the Lower State finals.

    Todd Mauney

    School | Waccamaw

    Class | Junior

    Position | Forward

    Notable | Grand Strand’s leading goal scorer finished the year with 27 while adding 10 assists en route to a Class AA All-State nod while leading the Warriors to the Lower State finals.

    Ian McIlrath

    School | Carolina Forest

    Class | Senior

    Position | Forward

    Notable | All-Region VI-AAAA selection finished his career with 35 goals, six assists, 29 steals and four saves. Led Panthers to second-place region finish this year.

    Willem Morin

    School | Socastee

    Class | Junior

    Position | Defender

    Notable | Braves’ sweeper was named to the Region VII-AAA first team after helping Socastee to the third round of the Class AAA state playoffs and a No. 6 spot in the final state rankings.

    Brandon Wallace

    School | St. James

    Class | Senior

    Position | Midfielder

    Notable | Four-year starter and all-region first-team selection tied for the team lead in goals with 12 and also added four assists as the Sharks finished in the top half of Region VII-AAA.

Helgi Nati had one chance to make a splash for Myrtle Beach.

Consider the opportunity seized.

One season after Nati was a seldom-used reserve for a Seahawks team loaded on the front end, Nati did more than simply increase his playing time. The Toast of the Coast Boys Soccer Player of the Year scored 20 goals in 20 games and raked in a handful of postseason awards.

It was a far cry from the two-goal season the forward had as a junior.

“I wish I could say ‘yes,’ ” coach Jason Himelsbach said when asked if he projected Nati as the team’s top scorer in 2014. “I saw him being a very solid player for us. As a coach, even if you’ve done it a while, you do all the prep. You think you always know how things are going to turn out. There are surprises that have to play out. I think Helgi is a perfect example.”

Nati’s team lead in goals was accompanied by seven assists. It helped Myrtle Beach to a top-five state ranking for much of the year, a 19-4 overall record and an undefeated run through Region VII-AAA. The Seahawks advanced to the third round of the Class AAA state playoffs.

Given all that, Nati’s point production made him a shoo-in for several honors. He was named a first-team All-Region VII-AAA selection. Less than two weeks after that, he was announced as one of 18 players in Class AAA across South Carolina (and three locally) to the All-State team.

Basically, it was everything Nati’s previous season was not.

“Just sitting on the bench and being a reserve, it made me doubt myself a little,” he said. “When he put me out there, I knew I could be a good player for him.

“I got teased. People would ask ‘Oh, are you going to start this season?’ When I started scoring goals, it was gratification.”

Nati flirted briefly with the idea of pursuing college playing opportunities. In the end, his acceptance in the honors college at South Carolina won out. He plans to study International Business, drawing on the experience he gained as a member of Myrtle Beach’s DECA club, a marketing, management and entrepreneur organization. It was there he was honored for state and regional awards that rivaled some of his soccer exploits.

“I never considered myself a top-class athlete,” Nati said. “Wining these awards made me feel good about myself. I could excel in the athletic field and the academic field.”

He’ll walk away from the latter having accomplished what seemed implausible just a year ago.

“You get two, three, maybe four years from a kid,” Himmelsbach said. “Your goal is that, if they’re serious, they’re starting. In a perfect world, by the end of a senior year, every kid is a starter. But that doesn’t always happen.”

For Nati, it did.

And he made it count.

Contact IAN GUERIN at ian@ianguerin.com.

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