The Hinesville Gators returned to Mount Pleasant, S.C., last weekend, to play in the annual Piggly Wiggly Soccer Shootout. The tournament provided a good warm-up for the team ahead of the spring soccer season and the GYSA Championship games.
The Gators U13 Classic IV team played for the first time in the competitive bracket. Coached by Tom Sukaratana and assisted by Chris Martin and Sungwon Chi, the U13 team was the only coed team in the boys Division, finishing 2-0-1, against teams from three other states. The Gators recently received their first ranking after just six months of competitive play. The team is No. 38 in the statewide rankings for Georgia, out of the top 100 teams in the state.
The Gators played Saturday morning against the Mount Pleasant Soccer Club 95 White team. Stanford Graham scored the first goal off an assist by Clark Sukaratana. The White team soon followed with a score and the game went into half-time tied. The White team scored twice in the second half, followed by a goal by Gator Tyler Causer.
The Gators were unable to get any more goals. They lost 3-2.
Later Saturday, the Gators shrugged off the loss and played the bracket crossover game against the FC Carolina Alliance from Concord, N.C. (ranked 26th in the state). Neither team scored in the first half. In the second half, the Gators went up one with a goal by Graham off an assist by Sukaratana. They held off the Alliance and were able to score with 5 minutes remaining when Phillip Swindell deflected a ball over the keeper’s head. With two minutes left in the game, the Gators scored again when Tareak Barnes scored off a cross-field pass from Swindell for a 3-1 win for the Gators. The Alliance eventually won the tournament, suffering its only loss to the Gators.
The Gators played their third game Sunday morning against the DISA Thunder, a team ranked 12th in South Carolina. The Thunder scored late in the first half to take the lead going into half-time. Coming out of the half, Swindell scored with a header when Brooke Standard placed a corner kick to him. After receiving a throw-in from Asyria Daniels, Graham scored for the third time in the tournament, sending the ball into the net for a 2-1 win.
The U13 finished second in their bracket and third overall in the tournament.
Team members are Stanford Graham, Clark Sukaratana, Tyler Causer, Tareak Barnes, John Paul Padilla, Phillip Swindell, Chris Martin, Patrick Chi, Brooke Standard, Tyler Buckley, Deshawn Jackson, Rickey Gilliard, Zachary Vasquez, Kelsey Higgason, Asyria Daniels and Dylan McGarry.
The Gators U12 Girls team finished second in the Silver Division. Coached by Karen Higgason and Kathleen Valentine, the team finished 2-2.
In the first game Saturday morning, Alyssa Anderson scored a goal in the first few minutes of the game followed with another goal by Adina Nevarez. The Gators beat the CGSA Shockers, 2-0.
The second game Saturday afternoon against MPSC 98 Spirit was a 0-1 loss for the Gator girls, but they fought back in the next game Sunday morning with another shutout, a 2-0 win, after Myesha Robinson scored a goal followed by Adina Nevarez.
In the final contest Sunday afternoon, the Gator girls gave the Augusta Arsenal Gunners a run for their money, holding them to a single goal. The Gunners won, however, 1-0.
Coaches Higgason and Valentine praised the team for placing second in a tournament with such fierce competition.
Coach Higgason said "I am amazed at how well the girls are now playing together and how strong they are becoming since last fall when the team was formed."
Team members are Megan Higgason, Cortney Welch, Catherine Wood, Myesha Robinson, Adina Nevarez, Alyssa Anderson, Summer Mehalko, Erykah Brown, Harley Dawson, Samantha Garcia, and Nakia Hunter.
The Gator U10 girls team won all three preliminary games, and played for the championship. Coached by April Causer, the team made a complete turnaround after losing all their games in Mount Pleasant last year.
When Cecilia Graham became ill before the first game Saturday, she refused to sit the bench and played both days through a high fever and the flu. Despite being sick, Graham scored 8 goals in this tournament, leading the team into the finals.
Mary Kathryn Whitney scored 4 goals, bringing the team total to 12 for the tournament. Graham, Whitney, Rebekah Cassidy, Mya Hicks, Sidney Wilkinson, Mercedes Buckley, Cierra Harvey and Martha Hause are all credited with assists.
In her debut as team goalkeeper, Sidney Wilkinson made numerous saves over the weekend.
Losing the final game, the U10 girls placed second in their division, bringing home a trophy from Charleston.
Team members are Cecilia Graham, Mary Kathryn Whitney, Sidney Wilkinson, Rebekah Cassidy, Mercedes Buckley, Madison Buckley, Mackenzie Buckley, Mya Hicks, Cierra Harvey, Hannah Osteen, Calista Clifton and Martha Hause.