2019 Nike Palmetto Cup starts Monday at Saluda Shoals Park
It’s the 26th year for the event, which features 29 boys’ and girls’ teams from throughout the Palmetto State and two from Virginia. It starts Monday and concludes Wednesday.
“Our boys field includes 24 teams broken up into two divisions – Gold Division (16 teams) and a Silver Division (8 teams),” Cup organizer and Gray Collegiate boys head coach Kevin Heise said. “There are five girls’ teams in our Girls Division. The boys divisions will feature Group play and feature a semifinals and championship match on Wednesday. Our girls division will play round-robin tourney and the champion will be determined via points.”
Among the state and nationally-ranked participants are Clover (5A #1 / Ranked #1 Nationally by MaxPreps and #2 by USA Today & United Soccer Coaches); A.C. Flora (Class 4A #1/); sister school Oceanside Collegiate Academy (Class 2A #1 /Ranked #24 Nationally by United Soccer Coaches); Bishop England (Class 3A #1); Cardinal Newman (SCISA Class 3A #1); Hartsville (Class 4A #4) and Greenbrier (Evans, GA / 6A #10).
“Saluda Shoals is a true pleasure to work with in regards to hosting the NIKE Palmetto Cup at their beautiful venue,” Heise said. “(Irmo-Chapin Recreation Commission) Director Ashley Smith really works hard to make this a first-class facility and allows us to run our tourney on their fields.
“He has been instrumental in setting us up with the Columbia Regional Sports Council – Scott Powers and Jarrett Dowling – who did such a great job with the NCAA Basketball Tournament in Columbia last month. CRSC has been able to provide billboard signage around the state promoting the NPC.”
Both Gray Collegiate teams enter the tournament as Region 3-2A champions for the second straight year. After having to replace 15 seniors from last year’s Class 2A Upper State runner-up, the boys’ team had to negotiate a difficult schedule with matches against Class 5A champion Wando, St. Joseph’s Catholic, South-side Christian, Oceanside Collegiate and Andrew Jackson.
Gray Collegiate had a 12-7-1 overall record entering Monday.
“We have been led by senior captain Jordan McKim who has been selected to play in the Clash of the Carolinas all-star game this summer. Heise said. “He’s had a terrific year as our anchor at center back and has been huge on set pieces via his free kicks and headers (8 goals / 4 assists).
Other key contributors have been junior midfield captain Mitchell Stevens (10 goals/10 assists); freshman forward Guillermo Cely (10 goals/4 assists); freshman goalkeeper Nathaniel Williams; freshman center back Jovany Gonzalez and freshman midfielder Ryan Kussro (4 goals/5 assists).
Like her husband, Gray Collegiate girls’ head coach Emily Heise also faced a challenging schedule as reflected in its 8-11 record. However, the Lady War Eagles remain undefeated in Region 3-2A and she believes the schedule will serve the team well in the post-season.
“Our vision is play the very best day in and out in hopes come May we will be prepared for a state championship run,” Emily said. “We have done just that with wins against Andrew Jackson and Oceanside Collegiate and challenging losses to St. Joseph’s and Southside Christian.
“We played 5A schools in Chapin, James Island and Summerville and SCISA champions Porter Gaul and Cardinal Newman. In our eyes we have played multiple state champion caliber teams. Our team is led by six seniors, including North-South selection Catherine McKeown (12 goals, six assists), her twin sister Madeline McKeown (two goals, six assists) and newcomer Raegan Gentry (11 goals, four assists). We also have two-time All-State player Kayann Glass (10 goals, 15 assists) as our utility man that can play any position on the field.
Follow the event at www.nikepalmettocupsc.com.