Clover girls, Fort Mill boys capture first state soccer championships

Kelsey Black couldn’t hold back her emotions.

In her 16th year coaching girls’ soccer at Clover, she led her team to the program’s first state championship appearance Friday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.

When the final buzzer sounded and the Blue Eagles secured a 2-1 victory against Chapin, she had led her team to the program’s first state championship win.

“(It feels) amazing,” Black said after the Blue Eagles won the 5A title. “It’s a feeling that’s indescribable. I was holding my breath for the last two minutes until the horn went off, and then it was just tears of joy.”

These two teams met in their season openers, where Chapin jumped ahead 2-0 early and took a 3-2 victory over Clover back in February.

This time, it was the Blue Eagles who got on the board first.

Two minutes into the contest, sophomore forward Ava Grieves dribbled past the Chapin backline into their box and was brought down. The penalty was given, and senior Marilia Nieves fired the ball past the goalkeeper into the net to give the Blue Eagles a 1-0 advantage.

“Just keeping my composure helped me a lot,” Nieves said. “I wanted to make sure I finished it in the back of the net, got us up 1-0. I think from there on, we all just kept up the pressure.”

That pressure rewarded Clover with another goal soon after.

Grieves again found herself dribbling past the Chapin defense down the right side of the field.

She sent a cross in to fellow sophomore forward Olivia Maurer. Maurer’s initial shot was blocked by the defender, but she reacted first to the 50/50 ball and put the ball into the net, giving the Blue Eagles a 2-0 lead with 25 minutes left in the first half.

Chapin’s offense started to show some life late in the first half.

Chapin won a free kick with just over 14 minutes left in the half. The ball managed to eek its way through two Blue Eagle defenders and to the feet of senior Darcy Ahern, and she slotted the ball into the net to cut Clover’s lead to 2-1. A lead the Blue Eagles would carry into halftime.

“We wanted to come out with some energy,” Black said. “We high pressured, which was great, but we knew Chapin, second half, was going to come at us, and it was going to be a battle.”

That second-half battle was largely on the defensive side of the ball, as Clover and Chapin traded possession and both goalkeepers were called on to make huge saves late.

As the second half began to wind down, Chapin threw a lot more bodies forward in an attempt to secure its game-tying goal but was unable to break through Clover’s defense

A key part of that defense was the senior co-captain duo of Elizabeth McAllister and Maddie Maldonado, who always seemed to be in the right place and the right time for a tackle, interception or clearance.

“We’ve always worked on this,” McAllister said. “We had to stay connected constantly. It’s just something we’ve always practiced, and we have this trust in each other that we knew we had each other’s backs and we’re not going to let anything come through.”

Winning the first state championship in program history is a major accomplishment.

The team felt like they had a job to do since their semifinal win over J.L. Mann three days ago. Not just for them but for players who come after them as well.

“It’s really cool,” Maldonado said. “We had our school here to back us up. Our town. We had a full parade, a police escort coming down here. It felt like it was something we had to do. We had to get it done just for everyone behind us.”

Clover finished the season at 20-4.

Fort Mill boys win first soccer title.

The Yellow Jackets beat the Stratford Knights 3-0 in penalty kicks late Friday to win the program’s first 5A state title.

Fort Mill, which ended the season on a three-game losing streak, had to win three consecutive road playoff games to reach the state championship round.

“It’s a whole new season when the playoffs start,” interim coach Pete Burroughs said. “You come out and you win one game at a time.”

Three Fort Mill seniors — Braden Gritz, Ryan Seitz and Camden Slaney — connected on penalty kicks for the win.

“I’m just super proud of these boys,” Burroughs said. “They’ve worked so hard, all year long. This was our goal.”

Fort Mill finished the season at 16-8-1.