COLUMBIA — Three of South Carolina’s Catholic high schools dominated spring soccer competitions this year. The girls of Bishop England High School in Charleston won the AA championship in the S.C. High School League on May 13, and the next day, Cardinal Newman High School in Columbia and St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Greenville played for the state title in the South Carolina Independent Schools Association. BEHS also won the boys state soccer crown on May 14.
In the SCISA championship game, the Lady Knights of St. Joseph moved ahead quickly and kept the pressure on, winning 5-1. The two Catholic schools had played twice earlier in the season for the Region 1 crown; SJCS won both games on penalty kicks after tied overtimes.
The two Catholic schools went on to eliminate other upper state and all lower state schools and met again for the state title. It was the second straight year that St. Joe was named champion.
The Knights struck quickly and were ahead 2–0 halfway through the first half of play on goals by Nicole Coia and Casey Carmichael. The Cardinals came back with a goal by Danielle Shaw to make it 2-1 at 17:37, but could not get through a tough defense to hit the net again.
Meanwhile, St. Joe’s star Coia pulled off a hat trick, the third straight playoff game in which she scored three goals, according to her coach, Shannon McCall. Julia Gragtmans booted in the clincher with eight minutes left in the hard-fought game.
The difference between the championship game and the first two was application of the killer instinct, McCall said.
“This time we decided to finish it. We’ve been ahead and made tactical mistakes before. We’re more experienced than they are,” McCall said.
Cardinal Newman coach Steve Berzins agreed that his team was still learning: “St. Joe’s was the better team, and they deserved to win. We’re young and talented, though, so we’ll be back.”
St. Joe fan David Powers said that extra push to win was a welcome cure for an earlier season failing.
“That was typical of the way we played, get ahead and then back off. Before we knew it, the game would be tied,” Powers said.
None of this explains why three of the four Catholic secondary schools in South Carolina should end up playing at the championship level. Jim Deyling of St. John Neumann Parish in Columbia had a theory.
“It’s the character of their families,” Deyling said. “These kids from Catholic schools understand that they can excel at something if they try, so they’re always able to field competitive teams.”
The Cardinal Newman team ended the season at 11-6, and St. Joseph at 18-3.