INDIAN LAND — For the third consecutive year, the Indian Land Warriors boys’ soccer team won the 2A Upper State championship, this time beating the fifth-ranked Saluda Tigers 4-0.
The second-ranked Warriors return to the 2A state championship match for the third straight year, where they are looking to claim their first state title in the sport after coming up short last year. The team lost in triple overtime to Bishop England. In 2012, they lost to Academic Magnet in the state finals.
Indian Land head coach Adam Cole told his team to enjoy the win over Saluda until midnight, and then start focusing on the state championship match scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Saturday at River Bluff High School. Indian Land will take on the winner of the Academic Magnet-Waccamaw matchup.
“We came in pretty confident,” Cole said. “The kids came through for us. The chemistry is there for our guys. It shows.”
The Warriors had dropped five games all season coming into Tuesday’s Upper State match, but all of those were to 4A schools. Saluda entered the game with an 18-1-0 record.
Saluda started the second half playing more aggressively, and the Warriors were knocked around in the opening two minutes. Saluda controlled possession early on, but Indian Land got off a quick shot, which was stopped, about four minutes into the second half.
The Warriors’ opportunities didn’t come as easily in the second half, but the team was still able to take some shots. Defensively, they stayed strong in keeping Saluda out of the box and maintaining a protective line between their offense and the goal.
Saluda also had a pretty strong defense in the second half by double and triple-teaming the ball.
The Warriors finally got the break they were looking for in the second half as senior Paul Huisenga hit a cross to sophomore Roscoe Lovejoy, who put it into the back of the net to give Indian Land a 3-0 lead.
About 12 minutes later, freshman Ryan Albino put the nail in the Tigers’ coffin as he scored the Warriors’ final goal.
In the first half, Indian Land had wasted no time in establishing its dominance as junior Jordan Szustwal scored off a throw-in just two minutes into the game. After the initial goal, the Warriors stayed on the attack and controlled possession, taking several shots at goal within the first 10 minutes – only to have the goal itself be unkind.
Szustwal and the Warriors continued to control possession and made the most of when Szustwal next got open again, with his second shot on the goal coming from left center of the field and landing in the goal’s upper right corner.
Saluda got its first real shot attempt about 18 minutes into the game on a free kick, but Indian Land goalkeeper Jake Barton gobbled up the attempt.
The Warriors used angles to control and move the ball toward the sides of the field.
For the most part, Indian Land made Saluda look slow as it beat them to the ball and blew the game open in the first half.
The Saluda defense became a little stingy in the final 10 minutes of the first half as the Warriors struggled some to move the ball around consistently on their side of the field.
Indian Land 4, Saluda 0
Saluda 00 – 0
Indian Land 22 – 4
IL – Jordan Szustwal, 2:17
IL – Szustwal, 14:29
IL – Roscoe Lovejoy, 65:25
IL – Ryan Albino, 77:00
Shots on goal:
Saluda 3, Indian Land 13.
Sergio Sum (S) 9, Jake Barton (IL) 3.
Saluda 1, Indian Land 4.
Saluda 18-2-0, Indian Land 20-5-0.