GSOC 2023: Dolphins cap magical run with SCISA 3A title

Hilton Head Prep coach Risa McMillan set up a tough regular-season schedule for a reason. When her Dolphins got through the gauntlet, she knew they had it in them to win the rest.  And did they ever. 

Their 11th straight victory was the golden one, as the Dolphins crushed Myrtle Beach Christian 6-0 to capture the SCISA 3A girls soccer state championship.

It was the culmination of a dominant run through the postseason, outscoring their opponents by an astounding 24-2. And it was fueled by a relentless pursuit of excellence that started with a special group of seniors. 

“It was an amazing evolution to watch,” McMillan said on the Lowco FC podcast. “At the beginning, we had a lot of soccer players on the field, but they were just soccer players playing their own brand. And they had to figure out how to play as a team and our seniors were integral to getting that together. Honestly, from day one to the state playoffs where they put it all together, it was just a beautiful thing.” 

After blanking Northside Christian 10-0 to begin their postseason run, the Dolphins found themselves on a collision course with Lowco rival John Paul II.  With all three regular-season meetings going down to the wire, the Dolphins were prepared to be at their very best. 

Courtney Campbell launched a beautiful laser to the top corner, and Hilton Head Prep never looked back. The Dolphins cruised past the Golden Warriors 8-2 behind the second consecutive hat-trick from Callah Dando. Everything was clicking for the sensational sophomore and her talented group of teammates.

“We went into all those playoff games with a mindset that we knew they were going to be hard,” Dando said. “We knew that we needed to play our game, and not get too scared of the hard competition. Going against those harder teams really helped us click going into the last two games.”

The speed and creativity from the Dolphins quickly overwhelmed the opposition thanks to Dando and eighth-grade phenom Ashley Brothers. Add that to an exceptional and stout veteran back line with senior Cat Zamora in front of terrific goalkeeper Emily Brothers, and there was no stopping these motivated Dolphins.

“They were amazing back there Cat especially,” McMillan said. “She just steps to the ball, no panic whatsoever, you’d have these fast strikers on the field and she just took it away and distributed the ball perfectly. The defense learned to work together and it was a huge reason for our success.”

Three days later, they finished the job — in pure, dominant form. The Dolphins put it all together one last time, downing Myrtle Beach Christian 6-0 to bring the SCISA 3A trophy back home. It was a flawless performance from top to bottom, anchored by a clean sheet from Emily Brothers. 

And it was a day and week that Dando could only dream of. 

After picking up back-to-back hat-trick performances to start the playoffs, the breakthrough sophomore did it again. Dando opened her account just two minutes in with a wicked strike from over 30 yards out. With more dazzling ball movement, the Dolphins kept feeding Dando the ball, and the magic touch continued. 

Three games, three hat-tricks, and a state championship. 

“Our four seniors were huge,” Dando said. “Without them, we wouldn’t have been as connected as we are. We came into this year with a lot of new girls, they always included us and made sure everyone knew that we were on the same page.”

Dando may have been the headlining star, but it was a full team effort in the final masterpiece of a dazzling Dolphin symphony. Ashley Brothers complemented Dando’s heroics with two goals, Bryn Miller added a goal and two assists, and Campbell tacked on an assist. And there was no denying the importance of Madeline Schlieman, Oona Ehlers, Alexis Terry, Sophia Haroutunian, and Zamora, who displayed their clinical defending skills. 

It was a journey filled with hurdles and adversity, but in the home stretch of the season, the Dolphins were uncatchable. And Dando is already pumped to prove she and her returning teammates can do it again. 

“I’m really excited,” she said. “We had good leaders this year who showed me how to get the job done. Risa being my coach will really help show me what a leadership position is. And we’re going for state champs next year, too.”

By Wes Kerr /


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