Everyone has something but there are some things that have everyone.
It isn’t necessarily difficult to find motivation ahead of a state championship game. Each player seems to have something propelling themselves through the title chase. It often varies by certain individuals or specific situations.
For the Oceanside boys soccer team, though, there are a few things that seem to resonate with everyone, motives shared throughout the team that provided an extra measure of fulfillment once the trophy was hoisted.
Oceanside shut out Southside Christian, 2-0, in the Class AA state championship game Friday in Irmo.
The state title comes in the first season of postseason eligibility for the Landsharks, a meteoric rise for a program and school established just three years ago.
“It’s all about the boys,” Oceanside coach Andre Berenzon said. “These boys showed up every day for the past three years thinking about today, just knowing that it would all be worth it. It’s all about the players.”
The players had to first believe in themselves. Many left behind opportunities at more established programs to pursue the unknown. Just 25 players showed up for the first year of tryouts. Some from the outside looking in would question those breaking the mold, assuming they must be castaways from the elite programs that surrounded this startup. So one of the most influential motivations had to come from within the players, who sought to validate the belief they had in themselves and their unconventional decision.
“The years of training and hard work was all leading up to this match,” Oceanside senior forward Tyler Boselwitz said. “Most of us being seniors knew this was the once chance we had at (a state championship) and we were going to do everything we could to win.”
Oceanside attacked early, just missing on several opportunities until Boselwitz broke through in the 18th minute. Boselwitz maneuvered the ball through one defender’s legs and sprinted past another before firing a 10-yard rip across the keeper and into the far corner of the net.
“It came at the right time,” Berenzon said. “We were creating a few chances but when you don’t score you start to get frustrated and it can open up some space for countering. So that first goal came at the perfect time.”
Beyond themselves, the Oceanside players sought to validate their program. They were taking a leap of faith into the unknown in an area rich in soccer tradition. There would be plenty of challenges ahead for a budding program of mostly underclassmen led by a coach making his high school debut. There would certainly be sacrifices as Oceanside wouldn’t be eligible for the playoffs until its third season, leaving it to wade through abbreviated schedules its first two years. Berenzon organized what he calls his three-year business plan, knowing that the team would have to be patient but hoping that by the third year it would be ready to compete for a state title.
“There were definitely times I thought I made a bad decision,” said Oceanside senior striker Philip Siegwald, who transferred from Wando after his freshman year. “But I liked the group of guys we had and Andre Berenzon, our coach, is a really good guy. It was just a matter of getting a chance to prove ourselves. It was a little frustrating not being able to compete in state but it was worth it in the end.”
Siegwald all but sealed the win for the Landsharks in the 75th minute. He cut past one defender at midfield, then juked another to the turf opening a clean run at the goal that lured the keeper forward. Instead of firing away, Siegwald waited for the keeper to approach, made a quick dribble past him and put away the open look.
“We were playing well-balanced possessive offense throughout the game,” Berenzon said. “That second goal was important to reward how well we were maintaining possession. It separated us a little bit at the end.”
The Oceanside players wanted to win for themselves. They wanted to win for their team, the program and its future. Then there’s Sergio Gonzalez, who meant as much as any of it.
Gonzalez was a founding member of the Oceanside soccer program and beloved piece of the greater Lowcountry soccer community. He died of heart failure in January of 2018. He was just 15 years old. Honoring Gonzalez with a championship became a sort of unspoken understanding within the Landsharks team.
“You can tell he was a big part of the journey and you can see how much the guys wanted to do it for him,” said Siegwald, who was among those who held up Gonzalez’s No. 19 jersey following Friday’s win. “It was the best way for us to go out and win that for him and it's nice to think we made him proud."
Gonzalez was a key character in the beginning chapters of the Landsharks soccer program. He well understood the challenges of those early years and the Landsharks players and coaches agree his infectious smile must’ve been stretched as wide as ever on Friday.
“We found motivation as a team in different things but winning this for Sergio was one of our biggest motivations,” Berenzon said. “He loved his team. We used that adversity, that tragedy, to motivate us. We wanted to win it for the players and for this team and especially for him. I am 100 percent sure he’s up there watching from above and blessed us with this win today.”
Oceanside fell 6-1 to Southside Christian in the AA girls soccer state championship game Friday in Irmo.
Freshman Ellie Smith lifted the Landsharks ahead in the 36th minute, redirecting a free kick that deflected off the post for a 1-0 edge that would stand until halftime.
Southside Christian responded with six unanswered goals in the second half. The Sabres scored three times through the first 15 minutes, two from senior Ashleigh Keiser.
Keiser finished with three goals, Mary Kate Wyer added two and Rachel Castellani scored once.