A photo may say a thousand words, but it is the long list of memories from the 2017 boys soccer season embedded in the mind of Chris Matlashewski that he will savor most.
Though with one more season left at Socastee, the previous soccer campaign would be the last he’d experience with four seniors who had become like family.
“We’d been playing together since we were about (6 years old), and it’s been really special to grow up and develop as a team,” he said. “And like we’ve been saying since we were young, this is going to be a season to remember.”
And boy, did the Braves accomplish just that.
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Considered by some to be a rebuilding year for the kids in black and gold, it instead became a landmark one for the program, and potentially a harbinger of good things to come.
Socastee finished the season 23-4, with their season coming to an end courtesy of a 2-1 loss to nationally-ranked River Bluff. The side also flexed its muscle in Region VI-5A play, finishing undefeated.
In that 10-game stretch, the Braves gave up a total of three goals.
“We had a goal to win region, obviously, and had a goal not to get scored upon in region,” Matlashewski said. “We fell short on the last one, but we had more shutouts than we did the past two years.”
At the center of such success was the junior forward, whose dazzling footwork and artistry allowed him to score a team-high 36 goals to go along with nine assists. His tally marked the second straight year in which Matlashewski hit the back of the net 30 times or more.
Some schools you may have one or two good people, but the program is not good at all. You feel truly blessed to grow up in a good soccer school and have a great team around you.
Socastee soccer standout Chris Matlashewski
As a result of his work, he was named a first team All-Region VI-5A performer, in addition to earning all-state honors. However, it is time to add another honor to his collection.
The Socastee standout is The Sun News’ Toast of the Coast Boys Soccer Player of the Year.
According to Matlashewski, much of the credit goes to his teammates and the Braves soccer program, for that matter.
“It’s great, some schools you may have one or two good people, but the program is not good at all,” he said. “You feel truly blessed to grow up in a good soccer school and have a great team around you.”
In a constant state of motion over the course of an 80-minute match, peace can at times be fleeting — particularly on the pitch. For that reason, Matlashewski spends an extensive amount of time trying to scale back on his intensity and emotions.
“I just relax and clear my mind, get focused,” he said. “I just try to play music and calm down.”
At no moment was this more necessary than in overtime of the Braves’ second-round playoff matchup with James Island, where with the score tied at 2-all his penalty kick would send his side through.
Calmly and with ease, he sent the shot to the back of the net, ripping off his jersey in celebration. “It felt great, it was awesome,” Matlashewski said.
Raucous as that celebration was, he can only imagine the scene should Socastee claim an elusive state championship. With one more opportunity to make that goal a reality, he’s already working on the 2018 soccer campaign — even if it is more than nine months away.
Said Matlashewski: “Obviously the goal is to take a state championship … hopefully we can get that.”
This is the sixth installment in a 10-day series honoring the top athletes from the spring high school sports season. Tomorrow: Girls track and field.
2017 TOAST OF THE COAST BOYS SOCCER TEAM
Player of the Year
Notable: The Braves forward scored 36 goals while adding nine assists, all leading to him being named a Class 5A all-state performer.
School: North Myrtle Beach
Notable: The Chiefs defenseman earned all-Region VII-4A honors following a stellar season in which he helped lead his team to the playoffs.
Notable: Earned all-Region VI-3A distinction for his work with the Warriors this past season.
Notable: Had 12 goals and six assists for the Lions last year.
Notable: Had 11 goals to go along with 20 assists en route to being voted Region VI-5A Player of the Year.
School: St. James
Notable: Scored 20 goals and had 14 assists for the Sharks, earning first team Region VII-4A honors.
School: Myrtle Beach
Notable: A solid midfielder for the Seahawks, the North-South all-star logged 1,452 minutes this season, scoring a pair of goals and assisting on three more.
Notable: Had 23 goals and just as many assists for the Braves, helping them to an undefeated run through Region VI-5A.
Notable: The Warrior midfielder earned Class 3A all-state distinction after helping lead his team to a second-place finish in Region VI-5A.
School: Myrtle Beach
Notable: Had 19 goals and seven assists for the Region VII-4A champion Seahawks, en route to being voted a Class 3A all-state performer.
Notable: The junior forward had 16 goals and three assists for the Bulldogs en route to being named a Class 3A all-state performer, and helping the Bulldogs to a Region VI-3A title.
Notable: A solid midfielder for the Bulldogs, Trejo — a USC Aiken signee — scored nine goals while chipping in on nine other scores, earning Class 3A all-state honors.
School: St. James
Notable: Scored 31 goals while contributing 10 assists for the Sharks, en route to being named Region VII-4A boys soccer Player of the Year.
Coach of the Year
Notable: Led Braves to a 23-4 mark and an undefeated run through Region VI-5A.