Seahawks, Braves, Chiefs give Strand big soccer trio

The road to the Class AAA boys state soccer championship kicks off Tuesday night, but there’s a good chance the path will begin on Kings Highway.

Three of Region VIII-AAA’s four postseason qualifiers are ranked in the top 12 of the state entering tonight’s first round of the playoffs – No. 3 Myrtle Beach, No. 7 Socastee and No. 12 North Myrtle Beach.

The Seahawks (19-2-1), who won the region for the second straight year with a perfect 10-0 record, play host to Berkeley while the Braves (17-5) welcome Bluffton in first-round action. The Chiefs (12-4-1) must travel to Battery Creek and fourth-place finisher St. James (7-10) visits No. 6-ranked Hilton Head Island. In Class AAAA, No. 2 seed Carolina Forest hosts No. 3 West Ashley. All games are at 6 p.m.

For the top-seeded Seahawks, this year’s playoffs are about unfinished business. Myrtle Beach advanced to the Class AAA state title game last season only to fall 2-1 to Eastside – a game that has been stuck in the back of the Seahawks’ minds all year.

It’s also a chance for Myrtle Beach to win its 20th game of the season for the second consecutive year and deliver head coach Jason Himmelsbach his 100th victory since taking over the program six years ago. The Seahawks have been on the upswing ever since and they are expected to be ranked in ESPNRise.com’s top 50 when this week’s rankings are released.

“I feel our area is very strongly represented in the state soccer rankings,” Himmelsbach said, “and some teams have a chance to make big advances in the playoffs.”

Socastee has been successful all season with the exception of one opponent – rival Myrtle Beach. Three of the Braves’ five losses this season have come at the hands of the Seahawks, all by 2-1 scores. The Braves hope they advance to get a fourth shot at the Seahawks, which could only happen in the Lower State finals.

The Chiefs have to overcome the difficulty of playing in perhaps the toughest region in the state. By taking the No. 3 seed, they will likely have to win out on the road to reach the state finals. St. James and Carolina Forest face similar uphill battles, but it’s hard to count out Grand Strand teams in boys soccer.

Photo courtesy of Jackie Lewis

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