Jonathan D. Duty
The streak has sadly come to an end.
For the first time since 2013, a team other than JL Mann will represent the Upper State’s largest classification in the girls’ soccer state championship.
Mann had played in eight consecutive state championships (in Class AAAA then Class AAAAA); however, that streak ended Tuesday night as the Patriots fell to Region 1-AAAAA rival TL Hanna, 1-0, in the Upper State championship.
“You know, we are proud of what we accomplished,” said Mann coach Steve Georgeopoulos. “What we were lacking this year was a little bit of maturity as we had a lot of young players on the team; however, streaks are meant to be broken, and unfortunately, it was our turn tonight. ”
Ironically, it was Hanna that last advanced as the Upper State champion when the Yellow Jackets won the state championship over Wando in 2012.
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Hanna (15-7-1) will again face Wando as the Yellow Jackets will play the Warriors for the state championship Saturday at 6 pm at Irmo High School. Wando defeated Chapin, 4-2, Tuesday night to win the Lower State championship.
The Patriots (12-5-1) relied heavily on its defense throughout the season as Mann had only given up a total of 12 goals. However, scoring goals had come at somewhat of a premium.
“Yeah, we couldn’t move the ball,” Georgeopoulos said. “We just didn’t have the chemistry to get that ‘golden goal’. Our girls played their hearts out, but I think the game against Wade Hampton really took everything out of them. They did the best they could; we were just not as fresh as we should have been. ”
Mann defeated Region 2-AAAAA champion Wade Hampton in penalty kicks on Saturday.
The Patriots split with the Yellow Jackets during their previous two meetings this year, but Hanna was able to take advantage of its opportunities.
“We did not play well,” Georgeopoulos said. “We did not connect. We just did not have the chemistry to connect with each other. We were a bit unorthodox in how we were playing. We just didn’t play a good game today. Their most dangerous player made us pay. That’s soccer; it takes one brilliant moment. If that player can score; that is all it takes. ”
Hanna junior Autumn Cayelli, who has committed to play at the University of South Carolina, scored midway through the second half.
Advancing to eight state finals in nine years (no final in 2020 due to Covid-19) speaks volumes about the Patriots’ program.
“JL Mann soccer has the tradition of being there,” Georgeopoulos said. “We have kind of owned that. We have a legacy that we have built. I am proud of the girls of what they were able to do. We just came up short tonight. ”
Georgeopoulos said the Patriots need to merely put things together to successfully return to the state’s elite showcase.
“We have to play better soccer when it really matters,” Georgeopoulos said. “We were very close tonight. We just need to come together when we need to. The coaches have to prepare the team to be better and to be ready to play and the players have to do their job, trust the coaches and execute the game plan. ”