Warriors wrap up first AAA season

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Young team wins region crown, despite injuries

By The Staff

The Indian Land High School boys soccer team missed the state championship match for the first time in five seasons, but the Warriors still continued their tradition of soccer success.

ILHS, which finished 16-4, went 8-0 in Region IV-AAA to notch its 10th straight league title, with a 14-3 regular season. 

“Hats off to the boys for a tremendous season. After graduating 13 of 20 players last year, many had written us off this year and didn’t expect much from us,” IL coach Adam Cole said. “I knew from the start this would be a rebuilding year, but still told the guys from day one they had the potential to do great things and get back to state.”

Cole said the season was akin to a roller-coaster ride.

“We had ups and downs,” he said. “Right away, the guys were thrown into the fire with the preseason tournament hosted by Northwestern. Going up against Riverside, Dorman, West Florence and York, we didn’t escape with wins, but gained a lot of experience.

“Our starting forward was taken out for two weeks with a concussion,” he said.

Cole said the challenges kept coming.

“Right before the first match, our starting goalie quit to pursue an opportunity with the U.S. National Development Academy in Charlotte, so we were down a starting striker and goalie,” he said. “The kids rallied behind each other and managed to put some wins in our favor.

“A week into the season, our starting midfielder, Ethan Cvitkovic, was taken out with a season-ending hip injury, but still the guys found ways to win.”

ILHS capped regular-season play with the loss of another key player.

“In the last game of the season, we lost our starting striker and leading goal scorer Gavin Dunlop to a season-ending ACL tear. We also lost a second starting midfielder, Previs Suvillaga, to a season-ending calf injury.

“Going into playoffs, we knew it would be tough. Beating Woodruff in the first round proved to the guys we could contend,” Cole said. “In our second match with Powdersville, the guys proved again their resilience, winning 2-1.

“In round three, our youth and injuries caught up to us in a 2-0 loss to Seneca,” he said. “This was our first-ever loss at home in the playoffs. A positive we took away from that match was that we knew we had a lot of kids returning, and we knew we could compete with them at full strength.

“We felt confident we could have gone further, but this just wasn’t our year. It’s a strange feeling not going back to the finals,” he said. “But, just as it did in 2011 when we made our first Upper State championship appearance, I believe a fire has been started. It will be a long offseason and will feel like an eternity to get back out there, but when we do, we hope to have our best showing yet.

“We know AAA soccer is a lot tougher, with...typically nationally ranked Bishop England moving up in the Lower State, and Berea High, which just won the AAA crown, finishing in the top 10 nationally,” he said.

But Cole said he’s confident the Warriors will compete with the best again.

“We have a lot of good teams ahead of us to prepare for,” he said. “There are some big shoes to fill from the five graduating seniors, but our guys have shown they are up to the challenge. Thank you to the school, community, parents and fans who supported us this year.”

Cole also tipped his hat to the Class AAA state champion Lady Warriors.

“A special congratulations to the girls soccer team for winning the AAA girls state title. They have faced the same struggles as us with private schools in playoffs, but knew their potential. They worked hard all year and got past their own adversity to make it to the finals,” Cole said. 

“Everything went right for them at the right time. They were presented with an opportunity and took it. They certainly seized the moment. Watching the game, the girls looked the best I’ve ever seen them. They were focused and determined and achieved a goal that they have been reaching for a long time,” he said. 

“As a coach, I was happy to see our school and our sport so well represented by these girls and to see them accomplish their goal,” Cole said. “As a teacher, I was happy to see some of my former students give it their all and succeed.

“As a parent, myself, I was happy to see the faces of the ILHS soccer parents watching their children bring home the gold.” 

Cole said ILHS soccer is gaining recognition.

“Our soccer program has constantly been on the rise. We have now joined the elite ranks of teams, which have sent both boys and girls to the state finals, and I’m happy to have the girls bring the ever-elusive state championship home for Warrior soccer. The guys were there to support the girls, just as the girls did for us when we were there. This is a tremendous accomplishment for ILHS, the Indian Land community and soccer as a whole.

“We look forward to what the future has in store for us. The girls are returning the majority of their team, so look to see them in the finals again with another chance to bring one home,” he said. “It will be a great day for Indian Land soccer if we can get both teams to the finals in the same year and both hold the title trophy at the end of the day. Until then, it was the girls’ year and they deserve all the credit and accolades of an outstanding season.”