First, Cole Renfrow earned the chance to start.
Second, the senior earned the right to go the distance in Saturday’s Lower State semifinal match against Bluffton on Saturday.
The series of events paid off for the Braves as Renfrow recorded a shutout in a 1-0 victory that put them in the Lower State finals.
Renfrow – who has split time in goal all season with freshman John Cetin, most often with each playing a half – had eight saves while shutting down a high-powered Bluffton team.
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“Cole Renfrow was awesome tonight,” Socastee coach Byron Owen said. “A few times he had to come out and win balls off of forwards. He came out and was very strong and fearless in the back. He was huge.”
It wasn’t until the end of practice Friday that Renfrow knew he would be starting. Owen grades both his goalkeepers during practice heading into a match and whomever has the better practice outcome gets the start.
This time it was Renfrow, who played so well against the Bobcats early on that his coach chose not to make the switch at halftime.
“He earned the starting position for this game and stayed there all game because he was doing so well,” said Owen, in his first year as head coach while taking over for Memo Suarez, who still is with the team but now as an assistant.
Assisted by Nick Coonce, Chris Matlashewski scored the game’s lone goal as the Braves advanced to the Lower State finals, where they will host River Bluff at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
However, getting there wasn’t easy. A similarly high-scoring team like Socastee, Bluffton proved to be more than just a finesse squad, Owen said.
“It was an extremely physical game. Those guys were a lot tougher physically than I was expecting,” Owen said. “I expected them to have some skill because they had scored a lot of goals like we had. I was expecting them to be skillful, but not as physical as they were. But we handled that well.”
Next up for the Braves is River Bluff, the team that knocked them out in the Lower State semifinals a year ago.
“I haven’t seen them play this year, but I know that they are super strong,” Owen said. “They haven’t put up crazy numbers as far as goals, but they are solid all over and their defense is pretty stout as far as I can tell. They’ll be a strong.”
Now the only question is that of who will be in goal. It’s safe to say the next couple days of practice will be pretty competitive.
“It’s a problem, but an excellent problem to have. You better believe it,” Owen said.