Fort Mill High junior Ryan Seitz scored a first-half hat-trick, while junior Christian Young and sophomore Rory Nowicki each scored in the second half to lead the Jackets to a comfortable 5-1 victory over visiting T.L. Hanna in the first round of the Class 5A state tournament Monday night at Bob Jones Stadium.
T.L. Hanna took an early lead through a sixth-minute penalty, but the tide soon turned in Fort Mill’s favor when Seitz scored three goals in the space of 14 minutes to send the home team into the halftime break with a 3-1 lead.
Fort Mill, who improved to 13-7-1, will next face Hillcrest High School at home Wednesday, May 3 in the second round of the playoffs. Hillcrest defeated Gaffney 4-0 on Monday in their first-round matchup.
T.L. Hanna entered the postseason as a No. 4 seed out of Region 1. With the loss, T.L. Hanna ends its season with a 6-12-1 record.
“When we’re on our game, our finishing, it’s dangerous,” Seitz said.
Despite Fort Mill opening the game with several early chances, T.L. Hanna took the lead in the sixth minute due to an unlucky deflection.
A Fort Mill defender was adjudged to have handled the ball, leading the referee to signal for a T.L. Hanna penalty kick. Junior midfielder Evan Bacheller calmly dispatched the kick past Fort Mill goalkeeper Noah Churchill to give the visitors a 1-0 advantage.
Fort Mill had plenty of early opportunities, but had to wait until the 26th minute to finally hit paydirt.
Junior Brayden Hunsucker slid in a short pass to find Seitz on the top of the visitors’ penalty box, and Seitz hit a composed shot past T.L. Hanna’s junior goalkeeper Drew Minner.
“At this point, in my mind, it’s automatic,” Seitz said. “I knew I’d take a touch to settle it, wait for the keeper to come, and then I could slide it by him.”
Just seven minutes later, Seitz was celebrating again – this time, he smacked a rocket past Minner and into the upper-right 90 of the T.L. Hanna goal to give the home team a 2-1 lead.
And the junior earned his first-half hat-trick with a penalty just before the halftime break. Seitz played in an inviting pass for teammate Braden Gritz, Minner brought Gritz down in the box, and the referee awarded Fort Mill a penalty.
Seitz scored his third goal of the night, beating Minner to his left.
Fort Mill head coach Mark Seren said his team has been “battle-tested” through a tough region and non-region schedule this season.
“We see these types of playoff teams, week-in and week-out,” he said. “That advantage means it’s helped us prepare for it mentally.”
Young hit a 30-yard shot beat Minner from long-range to open the second half. And Nowicki secured the final goal of the game when he tapped home a rebound after Gritz hit the near post after dribbling into the box.
The win was Fort Mill’s first Class 5A home playoff win, according to Seren. The team ran over to the scoreboard following the game to ring a bell used to denote a home win.
“That felt great,” Seitz said. “I’m glad the boys had a chance to enjoy themselves and express themselves.”