The Fort Mill soccer team is ranked 27th in the country by ESPN, but with such high praise comes high expectations.
The pressure was high Wednesday night as the Yellow Jackets began their Region 4-AAA schedule against South Pointe, ranked No. 9 AAA in South Carolina.
And while they didn't play up to coach Lloyd Chalker's expectations, the Yellow Jackets nonetheless clinched a 2-1 victory over the Stallions.
"We survived tonight, but the question of whether this team can handle all the expectations on them remains," Chalker said. "The target is on our back, and I believe that's the way it should be."
Fort Mill's speed and aggressiveness paid dividends early in the first half, as a header from Jacob McDonald set up teammate Kevin Fielden for a goal from just inside the penalty box in the 4th minute.
All told, the Yellow Jackets had nine shots on goal in the half, but were often thwarted by Stallion senior goalie Matt Hutches, who had a crucial diving save in the 15th minute to keep South Pointe down a goal.
"After we came out with a bang in the first 15 minutes and didn't completely capitalize, we let South Pointe hang in the game," Chalker said.
South Pointe's defense also helped to stifle the Yellow Jackets, as Fort Mill went more than 10 minutes without a shot on goal in the middle of the first half. But Fort Mill kept pressing the attack, and in the 38th minute, a cross from Fielden resulted in a goal for forward Austin Cassidy.
But Fort Mill's two-goal lead lasted less than a minute, as a deflected shot from Stallion midfielder Cody Rebh was converted into an uncontested goal for C.J. Davenport to cut the lead to one heading into halftime.
Davenport nearly pulled off a highlight-reel goal in the 45th minute of play, striking a lob from near-midfield that almost sailed over the head of Fort Mill goalkeeper Mason Jackson. But a last minute fingertip save from Jackson sent the ball over the net and prevented a goal, which would've tied the game.
The score would remain 2-1 for the remainder of the game.
"We need to have wins like this," Chalker said. "Not only was a region win needed, but it's important to edge out a victory when we aren't playing at our best to prove we have what it takes to win."