GISA Prep Soccer Playoffs

Heritage School girls end season with loss in Class AAA Elite 8

by Doug Gorman

The Heritage School’s soccer team might have seen its 2013 season come to a close earlier than hoped Friday at home in a 1-0 loss to defending champion Westminster-Augusta in the second-round of the Class AAA state playoffs.

But it only took head coach Ron Rineer only a minute or so to turn his attention to next year.

There’s good reason for Rineer’s optimism.

The Lady Hawks lose just two seniors off this year’s team.

“It’s always a bitter pill to swallow when you lose in the playoffs, but I am so proud of this team,” Rineer said after reaching the Class AAA quarterfinals with a roster including six eighth-graders, two freshmen and five sophomores.

“If you would have told me at the beginning of the season we would win the region, make it to the Elite 8 and play the defending state champions all the way to the wire, I am not sure I would have believed it,” he added. “I can tell you this, teams around the state better take notice, because Heritage School soccer is going to be around for a little while.”

Heritage School set up Friday’s showdown with an 8-0 first-round playoff win on Tuesday over Calvary Christian and afterwards, Rineer predicted the Lady Hawks would face tougher competition.

He was right.

Despite losing nine players to graduation after last year’s GISA championship, Westminster was expected to be one of the top teams in GISA again this year.

“We knew they were going to be tough,” he said. “They have a great tradition.”

The Lady Hawks relied on stellar defense through out the year, finishing the 2013 campaign with a 13-2 record.

Heritage School gave up just five goals all year.

The biggest came nearly 62 minutes into Friday’s Elite 8 match.

Less than a minute later, Westminster nearly struck again when it had an opportunity to connect on a penalty kick.

But Lady Hawks sophomore goaltender Lillie Smith made the save of the game, denying the scoring chance and keeping her team in the contest with 17 minutes left.

“That save was huge,” Rinner said. “If they score, we are down two goals. That stop gave us a chance.”

It also put new life back into the Lady Hawks who had struggled to find its offense in the second 40 minutes.

After Smith turned away the penalty shot, sophomore Sara Brillanti raced down field and had a solid shot on net.

The Lady Hawks continued to attack the Westminster net and forced three corner kicks in the last 15 minutes of the game.

“It’s like I told the girls, everybody but one team is going to lose when it is all said and done,” Rineer said. “I told them just to remember how this feels and let’s try to go further next year.”

Both teams had their chances in the first half.

Heritage School outshot Westminster 7-6 during the first 40 minutes of play.

Smith also made six saves against Westminster.

Nearly 32 minutes into the contest, Phebe Warren connected with Brillanti on a cross pass but the play was whistled for an offsides to wipe out one of the best scoring chances of the first half.

Maggie Crosby also had a clear shot on net, but the ball sailed over the crossbar before halftime.

The loss ends the varsity careers of Elizabeth Massenburg and Cheney Thomasson.

“I feel bad for our two seniors,” Rineer said, “But for our younger players coming back, I think there a chance we are going to win a state title or two before they are gone.”

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