GREER — With her and her fellow seniors first win over Riverside finally found, Wade Hampton girls soccer senior defender Cambelle Roberson was happy that those watching finally saw what she knew her team could achieve over the offseason.
With a 2-1 win last week over the Warriors, the Generals rose to 11-1 and have flown up the rankings.
Wade Hampton is firmly in the drivers seat to win a region title — something the program hasn't done since 1989.
The girls soccer team from Wade Hampton Boulevard has come close since that year — finishing second in Region 2-AAAAA last season and in 2019, too. Other strong seasons have been scattered across the three decades.
So when the Generals played at Riverside, a team that has dominated girls soccer in the Upstate for years, it seemed that the pressure of a near-spotless record and region title hopes would've marred a masterful performance.
Wade Hampton didn't let that happen in this matchup. Roberson happily brought up the fact that the program welcomed snapping the streak. Wade Hampton AD Reggie Choplin confirmed the dates, and Roberson made it clear that the Generals are working toward becoming a mainstay in first — not second — in the region standings.
"Our ultimate goal is to win region," said Roberson, who is one of two seniors (the other is Stella Garcia) on her team heading to Furman to play soccer next year.
"We take it one step at a time," she emphasized, "(but) region is first … that comes first. We haven't won the region since 1989. Every year we don't we don't come in third or fourth, we come in second every single year.
"So I think it's just really, everyone's very annoyed or tired of being second."
Roberson, and her teammates ,with a chip firmly on their shoulder could all only smile with a 4-0 record in region play.
Wade Hampton takes major step
As Shelby Garcia stood tall in the box, she found herself in a familiar position.
The ball came soaring toward the net on a cross, Garcia, a quick-footed midfielder who's as good an offensive threat as any player for the Generals, tracked the ball and knocked in a header during a mostly quiet first half in Greer.
Her goal tied her for the team lead with eight on the season (a number her twin sister Stella, is matching).
With just under 6:40 to play in the first half of the match, Garcia and her team had struck first. A crowd of white jerseys sprinted down the field cheering.
"It was a really good cross ball," Garcia said, "I just found it with my head and (tapped) it right over the keeper."
Junior midfielder Royton Boulware then found the net with a rocket just inside the 18 early in the second half.
It put Riverside in a hole it wouldn't overcome and the seniors at Wade Hampton — whohad their sophomore season end after eight games — get their first win over the winningest girls soccer program in state history.
"We just keep fighting through it," Wade Hampton coach P.J. Mancuso said. "We have a great team that's willing, you know, players are willing to play different positions and support each other. And so the ability to kind of, you know, lose a goal and be 2-1 and just kind of strengthen up and buckle down a little bit, was incredible."
Underdog mentality fuels Generals
When the first rankings of the season came out from the S.C. Soccer High School Soccer Coaches Association for Class AAAAA girls soccer, the Generals weren't ranked.
"We've always just had that in the back of our heads," Garcia said, "to power us and keep us going.
"We're definitely the underdogs ... it motivates us."
Mancuso, a Wade Hampton graduate, said his team this season has dealt with injuries, being overlooked and other adversity. He said the team has remained focused on the central goal of first the Region 2-AAAAA crown and then whatever the state tournament holds.
"I think we realized, like, we can win the region, it's possible," Roberson said. "We are going to do it if we just stick to what we've been doing. So it just kind of lets everyone know, like, we're here … we're ready to play."
Wade Hampton was ranked No. 2 in the April 10 rankings that were released by the South Carolina High School Soccer Coaches Association. The Generals have climbed from being unranked to that spot, sitting behind Chapin — which is No. 1 in the AAAAA rankings.
The Generals have allowed eight goals and scored 31 across 12 matches. Their resume includes wins over Clover (which bounced the program from last season's AAAAA playoffs in the first round), Hammond, Dreher, Riverside, Spartanburg and St. Joseph's.
"That was our big goal at the beginning of the year," Mancuso said when asked about the region championship. "We set out to win the region championship ... it was obviously a huge step (beating Riverside) ... but we're very aware that the next round (of region games) is going to be probably tougher."
Mancuso also said this season and the potential for the region crown means a lot to him — he played boys soccer in high school for the Generals.
"We were unranked in the state coming into this," Roberson said, "and that was really frustrating. I mean, obviously, we didn't have the best season last year. So it wasn't like we should have been ranked.
"But it really, it feels nice to prove everyone wrong."
Wade Hampton's remaining slate
The Generals remaining slate won't be an easy one. Although, the toughest opponent in Riverside has already been conquered on the road. The Warriors and Wade Hampton will meet against on Thursday — this time at the Generals home field.
To finish out the season, Wade Hampton will play at Spartanburg and Dorman, then home against Byrnes to close out their region slate. As of Monday morning, Wade Hampton has a two game lead in the standings.
"It's big time," Mancuso said," (The program hasn't done this) since 1989, and I went here. It would mean a lot."
Now with a handful of matches left, Wade Hampton has a chance to end a 32-season streak.
Joe Dandron covers high school athletics for The Greenville News. Have a question, story idea or story tip involving prep sports in the Upstate? Email him at email@example.com or reach out via phone at 864-415-6213.
This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Wade Hampton girls soccer on cusp of first region title in 33 years