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In a nail-biter, Lady Warriors win school’s 1st soccer title

By Robert Howey

IRMO – In an electrifying penalty-kick finish, Indian Land High School won its first state soccer championship Saturday, as the Lady Warriors outlasted Brookland-Cayce to take the Class AAA title.
Moments after Indian Land goalkeeper Emma Thompson blocked a Brookland-Cayce penalty kick, her teammate Emily Gerdes blasted the ball into the net on the decisive play, igniting a rousing on-field celebration.
“It was nerve-wracking,” said Gerdes of her championship-clinching penalty kick.
Thompson, who had 13 saves in the match, was a powerhouse throughout the postseason, allowing just one goal in five playoff games. The team posted 15 shutout wins this year.
Lady Warriors coach Mark Bonda called the championship Thompson’s best game of the year. “She was at another level today,” he said.  Thompson lifted the trophy high with her teammates in the post-game celebration.
“This was an intense match, very nerve-wracking,” she said. “But when I got that block, I felt a huge weight was lifted.”
Bonda said the victory didn’t surprise him.
“Our kids just had a calm confidence,” he said. “This team has worked hard all season. We never had a doubt that we could get here.”
The 19-5-1 Lady Warriors, in their first season since the growing school moved up from Class AA to AAA, topped its Lexington County opponent 2-1 (5-3 in penalty kicks) to capture the title at Irmo High School’s W.C. Hawkins Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The match was deadlocked at 1-1 through 80 minutes of regulation, two 10-minute overtimes and two 5-minute sudden-death periods. That set up the penalty kicks that would end the contest.
Prior to Gerdes’ decisive penalty kick, the Lady Warriors’ Kelsey Long, Summer Bishop, Kailee Erwin and Reagan Hunter all scored on theirs to put ILHS in position for the win.
Indian Land Principal David Shamble praised the team’s resilience.
“They hung in there and played well,” he said. “It says a great deal about their toughness, but they never gave up. I thank them for bringing home a state championship to Indian land.”
Indian Land first-year athletics director Tal Horton, who coached the girls in junior varsity soccer, said he knew the Lady Warriors were capable.
“They could have given up, but this is a good group and Coach Bonda is an excellent coach,” Horton said. “They stuck to it and were a team. They played for each other and Indian Land. This is great for our high school and community.”
Brookland-Cayce, which finished the season 20-7-2, snapped a scoreless tie in the first half as Elizabeth McGee scored for a 1-0 lead, but the Lady
Warriors countered as Long scored on a breakaway to tie the match.
“We thought after we went up, we could add more, but Indian Land had a lot to do with that,” B-C coach Emily Heise said. “We got a little lax and didn’t finish a lot of opportunities. We knew Indian Land was going to be a challenge.”
The Lady Bearcats outshot ILHS 21-7 in the physical match and had their share of scoring chances.
Bonda said it was about his team stepping up to the challenge.
“We were gassed out,” Bonda said of the championship match. “Three or four starters went out with injuries, and our bench responded.
“We had a great week of practice, and I felt good about our chances. As coaches, we felt we had done the best we could to prepare them for this situation,” Bonda said. “We covered all the scenarios and put all we had into it. I could not be prouder of them.”
Indian Land High boys soccer coach Adam Cole, who had seen his Warrior team fall short five straight years in the Class AA state title match, was
beaming among a host of elated ILHS fans as the Lady Warriors hoisted the state title trophy.
“It says everything about these girls,” Cole said. “All these years we’ve been getting close. It’s been a long time in coming.”
Indian Land senior soccer player Ryan Albino was thrilled for the Lady Warriors.
“It was amazing to see them go after it today,” Albino said. “They played their butts off. As a member of the boys soccer team, I was in it three
times and lost, but I had full confidence in them.”
Bonda shared a similar feeling.
“You just have to believe and keep working hard. We played with a lot of heart and determination,” Bonda said. “These kids have done that all season.”