High School Sports

Toast of the Coast: Thornton exceeds expectations for Waccamaw soccer squad

Rachel Thornton set a goal for herself prior to the start of her senior season.

The Waccamaw forward, despite missing nearly all of her junior season with an injury, had already returned to form via her club team and had signed an athletic scholarship to continue her career at Wofford.

So when she told herself she wanted to score a goal or record an assist each time out, it seemed like a feasible goal. Turns out, she was setting her sights a bit low.

Thornton, the top point producer on the Grand Strand, was the The Sun News’ Toast of the Coast Girls Soccer Player of the Year after putting up goals and assists galore en route to the Warriors’ nine consecutive Region VIII-AA title.

“The way I’ve always looked at it is if you score a goal, it came from someone else,” Thornton said. “When we were playing [lesser competition], if one of us has three goals, we’d ask who hadn’t scored yet this year. We’d make it our goal to get them a goal.”

That scenario happened frequently.

Waccamaw, which finished the season 17-3 and with a trip to the third round of the state playoffs, was the No. 5-ranked team in the final SCSoccer.com/Eurosports polls. It also recorded roughly half its victories by three goals or more.

Many of those lopsided wins came because of Thornton’s offensive acumen. She finished the season with 34 goals and 30 assists.

The fact that she could put up points wasn’t a surprise. She led the team in scoring as a freshman and sophomore, when she had 17 goals and eight assists in just 14 games.

“Rachel, when she sets her goals, when she sets what she wants to do, she’s not one who lets other people bother her,” Warriors coach and Athletics Director Joan Cribb said. “She does what she sets her mind to do.”

In this case, Thornton cruised past her initial expectations, as Cribb put it, to prove she had fully heeled from the torn hamstring that sidelined her for all but the opening matches and about 10 minutes of the final game in 2014.

Even though Thornton would take her own foot off the gas, she begged to stay on the field.

“She wanted to play all the time,” Cribb said. “She’s going into a bigger soccer program next year. She wanted to work on the little things she had gotten behind with. She was just very enthusiastic, period.”

It led the Warriors to another significant playoff run, not to mention plenty of success prior.

Waccamaw defeated all seven of the other area teams it played this year and had seven victories against teams from larger classes. The Warriors’ only three losses came to Academic Magnet, the eventual state champion, and against Bishop England, once in the regular season and another in the postseason.

Those didn’t come until after Thornton’s scoring secured her the scholarship to Wofford, and yet another region championship.

“I’d guess we were spoiled,” she said of the title. “It’s a routine. It’s not expected. It’s assumed.”

Contact IAN GUERIN at ian@ianguerin.com.

The team

Player of the Year

Rachel Thornton

▪ School | Waccamaw

▪ Class | Senior

▪ Position | Forward

▪ Notable | Class AA All-State selection and Wofford signee returned from an injury suffered last year to lead the area in points with 34 goals and 30 assists; also helped the Warriors to the third round of the state playoffs.

Tristan Gordon

▪ School | Myrtle Beach

▪ Class | Freshman

▪ Position | Forward

▪ Notable | Area’s leading goal scorer tallied 36 throughout the season, including four in the team’s playoff opener. Finished with five hat tricks and eight assists for region champions.

Amber Rutledge

▪ School | Socastee

▪ Class | Junior

▪ Position | Forward

▪ Notable | All-Region selection led Braves to an undefeated Region VI-AAAA record in first year back in state’s top class by scoring 16 goals and adding six assists.

Ingryd Garcia

▪ School | North Myrtle Beach

▪ Class | Junior

▪ Position | Forward

▪ Notable | All-Region VII-AA first-team selection scored 16 goals and added 13 assists for Chiefs team that won a pair of playoff games as a No. 3 seed.

Cassidy Posma

▪ School | Myrtle Beach

▪ Class | Junior

▪ Position | Midfield

▪ Notable | Region VII-AAA Player of the Year and Class AAA All-State selection recorded 16 goals and 11 assists while propelling Seahawks to an undefeated region record.

Meghan Fludgate

▪ School | Carolina Forest

▪ Class | Senior

▪ Position | Midfield

▪ Notable | Region VI-AAAA Player of the Year helped the Panthers qualify for the playoffs again and finished her career with 28 goals and 17 assists.

Jessica Preedom

▪ School | Waccamaw

▪ Class | Junior

▪ Position | Midfield

▪ Notable | Class AA All-State and All-Region VIII-AA selection helped Warriors to third round of the playoffs by scoring 18 goals and adding eight assists.

Mary Ropp

▪ School | St. James

▪ Class | Sophomore

▪ Position | Defender

▪ Notable | As Sharks sweeper, helped team post seven shutouts in Region VII-AAA play and ultimately earn a second-place finish and playoff berth.

Lydia Krask

▪ School | Waccamaw

▪ Class | Senior

▪ Position | Defender

▪ Notable | North-South All-Star and All-Region VIII-AA selection helped the Warriors to shutouts in half of their 20 games and into the third round of the playoffs.

Margaret Scalise

▪ School | Socastee

▪ Class | Senior

▪ Position | Defender

▪ Notable | Three-time Toast of the Coast selection finished career with 24 goals and 29 assists while playing primarily on the back row this year; led the Braves to a Region VI-AAAA title.

Sarah Allton Phillips

▪ School | Waccamaw

▪ Class | Freshman

▪ Position | Goalkeeper

▪ Notable | In 20 games, recorded 152 saves, including an eye-popping 29 in an overtime loss to Bishop England in the third round of the state playoffs.

Coach of the Year

Ashley Kunkleman

▪ School | Socastee

▪ Notable | Braves’ first-year head coach led the team to an undefeated Region VI-AAAA record and a berth in the Class AAAA playoffs.

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