Myrtle Beach’s ability — or lack thereof — to put the ball in the back of the net has led to many a sleepless night for boys soccer coach Jason Himmelsbach.
And yet, coming into Tuesday night’s clash with rival St. James, the Seahawks were well within striking distance of a Region VII-4A title and the home playoff dates that come with it.
Two goals would prove to be more than enough against the Sharks, Myrtle Beach holding on to claim a 2-1 victory in a contest pitting a pair of Class 4A titans.
“That was no less than what I expected in terms of effort between these two teams,” Himmelsbach said, “It was a true classic tonight, in a quality game. St. James can win a state championship like anyone else, and to pull out a win like this is a big feather in our hat.”
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It was the end to quite a stretch for both clubs, who played four games in three days this past weekend as part of the Soccer at the Beach tournament. As a result, each team came in a tad banged up.
Nevertheless, the show must go on.
Myrtle Beach (11-4-1, 5-1 Region VII-4A) put their foes from Murrells Inlet on their heels early on, getting a goal from Shavoy Brown. Despite a flurry by St. James, the Seahawks held that advantage till Tomer Tal’s strike went under the arms of Sharks net minder Max Davila to give them a two-goal lead.
“We gave up what I consider two soft goals,” said St. James boys soccer coach Michael Rice. “I wouldn’t even say those were earned. We gave up those goals, but at the same time thought that we were still in the game. We felt all we needed was one to get us going in the right direction.”
Dalton Arseneau would provide the Sharks the jolt they needed early in the second half. The recipient of a pass from Luke Williams, he was able to just get the ball past the outstretched arms of Myrtle Beach goalkeeper William Mendoza for the score.
St. James (14-3, 4-2 Region VII-4A) seemed primed for more, dominating possession and spending much of its time in the shadow of the Myrtle Beach net. Despite yielding the goal to Arseneau, the Seahawks’ net minder made sent back threat after threat, allowing them to claim the match.
“Our defense really helped us out tonight,” Himmelsbach said. “Especially Mendoza, who had a bunch of saves that thwarted some (St. James) threats. He was huge for us.”
Mendoza had six saves in the contest.
In the belief of Rice, it just happened to be one of those nights where things just weren’t meant to go their way.
“I think there were three, four or five opportunities late that on most occasions we’d knock in,” he said. “But sometimes that’s the way the ball bounces. I remember a Lower State game two years ago where it seemed everything we shot wound up in the back of the net.”
Unfortunately, the match was sullied by questionable calls by referees. Neither coach was particularly happy about the officiating, believing the group allowed the match to get out of control.
“In soccer it is a beautiful thing that calls can sometimes go your way, and they sometimes go the other way,” Rice said. “This game just happened that the calls really affected both sides.”