For the second consecutive year, the Pinewood Prep Girls Soccer team fell to rival Porter-Gaud in the SCISA AAA championship game.
A strong season for Pinewood ended May 11 with a 3-0 loss to Porter-Gaud on the Cyclones’ field. The final goal of the championship match came after Pinewood moved starting goalkeeper Grace Powell up top in hopes of generating more offense.
“Give credit to Porter but the score line, for me, does not reflect the game we had,” Pinewood coach Gail Osborne said. “The first goal Porter scored was great, but after that they didn’t really play pretty soccer.”
Cyclones’ junior Mari Gillum had two goals. Her first came approximately five minutes into the match off an assist from her sister, freshman Dita Gillum.
“My sister decided to flank and then cross it and luckily I was there to tap it in,” Mari Gillum said. “That is really big for me. We’ve played together so many years so for me to be able to score with her in a state final is something really special.”
The Panthers didn’t yield another goal until late in the second half. With just more than 12 minutes remaining, Porter-Gaud senior Evan Gilbert placed a hard shot from approximately 25 yards out into the back of the net for a 2-0 Cyclone lead.
After Powell came out of goal, Mari Gillum put another shot past the Panther’s second-string keeper in stoppage time.
The Panthers did have scoring opportunities. Pinewood sophomore Jordan White worked past a defender with approximately nine minutes remaining in the first half and got off a shot that was just wide.
Early in the second half, sophomore Riley Cox placed a corner kick right in front of the goal and eighth-grader Jessica Osborne sent in a nice header. Unfortunately for the Panthers, keeper Katie VanKirk reached out and made a save.
Shortly after Porter-Gaud’s second score, White and freshman Kelsey McKinney moved the ball into the box and had a couple of good opportunities, but VanKirk rushed forward to challenge and with the help of a trailing defender prevented a goal. With approximately six minutes remaining, Powell took a free kick from directly in front of the goal, but it was a little high.
The Cyclones improved to 15-7-2 with the win. Pinewood finishes the season at 19-6-1. The teams split their matches during the regular season with Porter-Gaud winning the first region match and Pinewood winning the second.
“I’m super proud of the team after Thursday’s semi-final win over Cardinal Newman,” Osborne said. “Getting to the finals, for us, was huge. Our girls gave it everything they had today, we just didn’t have enough in the tank. A few injuries have not helped so we knew coming in this was going to be pretty tough. I’m proud of the work and that they didn’t stop fighting. It just wasn’t our day.”
Pinewood only played two seniors in the title game due to multiple injuries. The Panthers stand to return 14 varsity lettermen next season.
“We have some really good youth coming through,” Osborne said. “Our time is coming. We’ve shown fight, grit and determination this season and been there for each other. We’ve had a great season and that is what we are going to remember. This was a very tight-knit group and that is probably why we are most sad because no one wanted to finish. They are already like can we have practice Monday.”
Pinewood advanced to the championship game with a 2-1 overtime victory over visiting Cardinal Newman May 9.
Early in the second half of the state semi-final match, Powell leaped up to punch a ball over the cross bar for an athletic save to keep the match scoreless. However, a Cardinal Newman player bent a shot out of Powell’s reach soon after for a 1-0 Cardinal Newman lead with approximately 37 minutes remaining.
Pinewood answered with less than 12 minutes remaining on the clock. Cox sent in a corner kick that bounced right in front of the goal. Osborne then headed the ball into the net to tie the game.
“All year we have been working on the mental side of the game,” Coach Osborne said. “We’ve been talking about if you go down a goal don’t give up, keep working and fighting. I knew we had it in us. We have had that kind of grit in us all year.”
That capped the scoring during regulation.
Less than two minutes into the second overtime period, Pinewood senior Abbey Martichenko received a pass in front of the goal and landed a shot for the game-winning goal.
“That goal in overtime was huge,” Coach Osborne said. “We have been joking all year about Abbey Martichenko scoring and she scored in the most important game. I think that was her second goal of the season.”
The last time the Pinewood Girls won a state soccer championship was 2015.