Cyclones storm into final

Porter-Gaud's Apsley Allen and Hilton Head Christian's Reily Malphrus during their playoff game Thursday, May 10, 2012 at Porter-Gaud. Paul Zoeller/Special to the Post and Courier

Despite leading by two goals at halftime, Porter-Gaud girls soccer coach Daniel Jordan knew the Cyclones needed to play better over the final 40 minutes if they wanted a shot at a state championship.

Gracie Mogul scored two goals and Tahirih Nesmith had a goal and two assists to lead Porter-Gaud past Hilton Head Christian, 5-1, Thursday afternoon in the SCISA semifinals.

The Cyclones (20-3) will face the winner of the Cardinal Newman-Heathwood Hall game in the state final Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. at the University of South Carolina.

Leading 3-1 after 40 minutes, Jordan was pleased with the scoreboard, but not with the Cyclones intensity or work rate.

“We were very lucky to go into halftime with a 3-1 lead because Hilton Head Christian outplayed us,” Jordan said. “The score didn’t reflect the play on the field. I told the girls at halftime that if we didn’t match their intensity in the second half we were probably not going to win.”

While the Cyclones got just two goals over the final 40 minutes, Jordan was much happier with the team’s overall effort.

“Night and day between the first half and second half,” Jordan said. “I thought in the second half we matched their intensity and had the run of play. We were able to put pressure on them all over the field and got a couple of goals. We played much better.”

Nesmith, a junior, said the team knew they hadn’t played up to their potential in the first half.

“We just didn’t come out with the kind of intensity you need in the playoffs with everything that was on the line,” Nesmith said. “We talked it out in the locker room at halftime and really came out strong in the second half and never gave them a chance to get into the game.”

The Cyclones defense was solid throughout, never allowing the Eagles to get any flow with their attack.

“We’ve got a couple of girls in the back that play well beyond their years,” Jordan said. “They were organized, they were tough and they kept their game simple. They knocked balls out of bounds when things got dangerous.”

Offensively, the Cyclones generated more than 15 shots and had almost a dozen quality scoring chances.

“We’ve got a lot of dangerous girls up top that can score,” Jordan said. “If you stop one player, we’ve got two or three more than coming at you. Everyone played well up front tonight.”

Alexis Ball got things rolling early, scoring on a header in the first minute of the game.

After a Hilton Head Christian goal, Mogul went to work and recorded back-to-back goals in the 16th and 19th minutes to give the Cyclones a 3-1 advantage at halftime.

Anna McAbee scored in the 56th after a scramble in front of the net to push the Cyclones lead to 4-1.

Nesmith finished off the scoring in the 67th minute.

“We had it in the back of our minds that we could get to state when the season began,” Nesmith said. “We’re excited, but we know it’s going to be a tough game no matter who we play.”