High School Sports

Myrtle Beach, Socastee flexing Grand Strand muscle in playoff runs

Myrtle Beach coach Jason Himmelsbach passes the Soccer at the Beach championship trophy to Socastee’s coach Byron Owen earlier this season.
Myrtle Beach coach Jason Himmelsbach passes the Soccer at the Beach championship trophy to Socastee’s coach Byron Owen earlier this season. jlee@thesunnews

Six weeks ago, Socastee defeated Myrtle Beach 2-1 in the finals of the Soccer at the Beach tournament.

Neither team has lost since, and on Tuesday, the two area programs will be taking the field in their respective Lower State championship games for the right to play for a state title.

“It speaks to the soccer here in Myrtle Beach,” Braves head coach Byron Owen said. “Generally so much credit is given to the Columbia schools, which they deserve, and up toward Greenville and Spartanburg. … But with St. James going to the championship last year and us and Myrtle Beach being right there this year, it shows that Grand Strand soccer is the real deal.”

Winning the state semifinals Tuesday would further illustrate the point.

Socastee will be at home against a River Bluff team that entered the playoffs as the No. 2 team in Class AAAA. What’s more, the Gators own a top-20 national ranking from Top Drawer Soccer and were No. 3 in the latest USA Today/National Soccer Coaches Association of America Region I rankings. Both of those poll spots, however, came before the Gators defeated Wando 1-0 on Saturday to advance to the next round.

The Braves (22-3), though, haven’t exactly stumbled into this part of the playoffs. They have an 18-game winning streak (dating back to a March 8 loss against Myrtle Beach), scored five or more goals in a game 15 times and – in a 1-0 win over Bluffton on Saturday – showed they could bring a different dynamic to the table for the home game against River Bluff.

“Those rankings and things, I try not to read too much into that. But we’re definitely one of the top four teams in the state. We are there,” Owen said. “And we haven’t lost since Myrtle Beach. We have the longest winning streak in the state. We are the highest-scoring team in the state.

“Our defense, us and River Bluff, have made a pretty good statement, a huge statement.”

It would be difficult to say Myrtle Beach also hasn’t been doing just that for much of the year.

The Seahawks (22-2) are likely considered the favorite for Tuesday’s Class AAA Lower State final at Hilton Head despite being on the road due to pre-determined home sites for like-seeded teams. Jason Himmelsbach’s squad has been the No. 1-ranked team in the division since April 24 and has won all 10 Region VII-AAA games by a combined score of 61-5.

Myrtle Beach then won its first three playoff games by at least two goals.

Another win would send the Seahawks to the state finals for the fourth time in school history. The Seahawks also qualified in 2003, 2004 and 2011, falling short by one goal each trip.

ALL-STATE/ALL-STAR SOCCER TEAMS

Seven local soccer standouts were named to the South Carolina High School Soccer Coaches Association All-State teams, while four total players earned spots on one of the state’s all-star teams.

Myrtle Beach can effectively say it cleaned up.

The Seahawks’ boys and girls teams – which each made at least the Lower State finals – had five total selections on the All-State teams. That list included boys Aldolfo Aguilar, Elijah Rice and Foster Russell and girls Tristan Gordan and Cassidy Posma. Aguilar and Russell were also named to the North-South All-Star South team roster. The only other area boy to make the North-South game was Socastee’s Jake Perito. Those games will be played June 18 in Rock Hill.

Waccmaw has a trio of honorees, with Matt Staub and Maddox Wilkinson on the Class AA All-State list and Warriors midfielder Jessica Preedom the lone area selection for the Clash of the Carolinas, which will be played July 9 in Raleigh.

ALL-REGION VII-AAA SOCCER TEAMS

After winning both regular-season titles this spring, the Myrtle Beach boys and girls teams racked up all-region honors.

In total, 13 Seahawks were named to their respective first teams, including Players of the Year Tristan Gordan and Elijah Rice. Additionally, Myrtle Beach’s Blair Mueller was named the Region VII-AAA Girls Coach of the Year.

The other first-team selections from Myrtle Beach included boys standouts Adolfo Aguilar, Foster Russell, Abdul Masharifov, Mark Phillips and Hunter Hardin and Abigail Gonzalez, Cassidy Posma, Kathryn Wylie, Josie Posma, Gracie Stevens and Anna Marie Puglia on the girls side.

ALL-REGION VII-AAA GIRLS TEAMS

Player of the Year: Tristan Gordan, MB

Coach of the Year: Blair Mueller, MB

FIRST TEAM

PLAYER, POSITION, SCHOOL

Tristan Gordan, F, MB

Ingryd Garcia, F, NMB

Abigail Gonzalez, F, MB

Cassidy Posma, M, MB

Hadley Hudson, M, NMB

Haley Brandon, M, STJ

Kathryn Wylie, M, MB

Josie Posma, D, MB

Gracie Stevens, D, MB

Brooke Kennedy, D, NMB

Anna Marie Puglia, D, MB

Montana Fields, K, NMB

SECOND TEAM

Ariana Cumez-Ortiz, F, STJ

Taylor Monahan, F, NMB

Alecea Mexas, M, MB

Renea Urbaniak, M, NMB

Nicole Malin, M, WIL

Rebeca Pacheco, M, LC

Mary Ropp, D, STJ

Oralia Guerra-Gumez, D, STJ

Eden Fowler, D, NMB

Ashni Bhojwani, D, WIL

Gabby Moore, K, MB

Elantriya Moore, GK, LC

HONORABLE MENTION

Hunter Altman, F, GT

Daya Franco, F, GT

Bethany Goodrich, M, STJ

Coral Holt, M, STJ

Kylie Conlon, M, STJ

Makayla Barr, M, LC

Leila Detalo, M, WIL

Katherine Watts, M, WIL

Joycelyn Epps, M, LC

Carley Martin, M, GT

Mary Cooper Jordan, M, GT

Mitzi Martinez, M, GT

Rachna Rawalpally, D, WIL

Emily LaFrance, D, WIL

Jennifer Logan, D, GT

Caroline Prince, D, GT

ALL-REGION VII-AAA BOYS TEAMS

Player of the Year: Eijah Rice, MB

Coach of the Year: Steve LeXander, WIL

FIRST TEAM

PLAYER, POSITION, SCHOOL

Elijah Rice, F, MB

Adolfo Aguilar, F, MB

Travis Dias, F, WIL

Foster Russell, M, MB

Abdul Masharifov, M, MB

Seth Hanson, M, WIL

Andres Celis, M, STJ

Jared Crawford, D, NMB

Douglas Acosta, D, NMB

Drew Volpe, D, STJ

Mark Phillips, D, MB

Hunter Hardin, D, MB

Matthew Wilson, K, NMB

SECOND TEAM

Chuckie Duke, F, GT

Ben DuBard, F, WIL

Lenin Molina, M, MB

Hamdane Aoubou, M, NMB

Simon Sander, M, NMB

Davis Pacheco, M, LC

Chris Young, M, STJ

Ben Camper, D, WIL

Charles Ouverson, D, STJ

Luke Presley, D, GT

Max Davila, K, STJ

HONORABLE MENTION

Felix Lazo, F, LC

John Astudillo, F, STJ

Garrett Greene, F, STJ

Mitch Backer, F, NMB

Samuel Trejo, M, GT

Vishnu Menon, M, WIL

Riley Parker, M, STJ

Kristiaan Matthee, M WIL

Carter Wallace, STJ

Bobby Pannell, LC

LONGTIME AREA FOOTBALL OFFICIAL DIES

Gary McMeekin, a 37-year veteran of high school football officiating on the Grand Strand, died over the weekend.

“Gary Mac,” as he was known to his District 11 refereeing brethren and coaches, was on the field for more than 400 games before retiring after the 2015 season, according to district director Bryan Murphy.

“He was an integral part of the district's leadership team by serving on the review board, by serving as a mentor for several inexperienced officials over the years and by previously serving a term as the district director,” Murphy said in an email. “Gary worked the referee position on the field and was very well respected for his knowledge of the rules and his no-nonsense approach to officiating. … Gary will always be remembered for his calm demeanor and the genuine kindness he showed to everyone he met.”

McMeekin was selected as an official for the 2004 North-South All-Star Football game and was honored in January for his service to the area football scene.

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