Pinewood Prep, Porter-Gaud play for soccer titles Saturday

Pinewood Prep players dump Gatorade on coach Gail Osborne after winning the state title last season. Staff/File

Two of the top soccer programs in the Lowcountry will play for SCISA state titles as Porter-Gaud School hosts the 2015 soccer state championships on Saturday.

Defending Class AAA girls’ state champion Pinewood Prep will meet top-ranked Cardinal Newman at 10 a.m., to be followed by the Class AAA boys’ title game between Porter-Gaud and defending state champion Cardinal Newman at noon.

Pinewood Prep coach Gail Osborne has her team in the championship game for the fifth time since 2009 and is seeking a third state title. The Panthers are 16-4 and Osborne points to a 3-0 loss on March 27 to Porter-Gaud as the turning point in the season.

“I think that was the wakeup call that we needed,” Osborne said. “Since the very first practice after that loss, we have been a different team in terms of our focus and our work ethic. It was a humbling experience and I think it made our players understand that we have to work very hard to be the team we want to be.”

Pinewood Prep avenged that loss to Porter-Gaud on April 29, winning 4-0 and capturing the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

Senior Charlotte Ring has been Pinewood’s major offensive threat, scoring 44 goals this season. Midfielders Sarai Bowman and Katie Black are veteran leaders in the middle while defenders Brittany Miles, Summer Ricciardi and Samantha Hilleshein anchor the back.

“We are probably a bit of an underdog, but it should be a great final between two very good soccer teams,” Osborne said. “I think we’re peaking at the right time and I would think Cardinal Newman is as well.”

Porter-Gaud (19-4-1) will face an uphill battle against Cardinal Newman (25-3), which has won 21 consecutive games. The Cyclones lost to Cardinal Newman in last year’s final and will have to play Saturday without their best defender, junior Harris Krogh, who suffered a wrist injury in the semifinal win over Hammond on Wednesday night.

Second-year coach Juan Roncancio says his team has been at a size disadvantage all season and Saturday will be no different.

“We’re small but we’re skilled and we have to rely on our skill and teamwork to be successful,” said the coach. “We know what we’re up against. Cardinal Newman is a powerhouse program and they’re big and physical. But we are confident in what we do and how we play and I know my team will play very hard.”

Porter-Gaud does not have a senior on the roster and many of the underclassmen this season also played significant minutes during last year’s run to the state final.

Without Krogh in the back, sophomore Will Mooney will be counted on for leadership on defense. Keeper Gettys Moore has been one of the top keepers in the state all season.

Offensively, Porter-Gaud’s attack is led by junior Cameron Ward, who Roncancio said plays with “boundless energy and passion.”

“I am very proud of this team as a whole,” said Roncancio. “This group bought in early and they have been able to put together a great season. Saturday should be a great game. Both teams will do what they do best and we’ll see how it all plays out.”