Sophomore Marcus Smith (No. 2) scored three goals in Riverside's 5-1 win over Wade Hampton on Tuesday, May 7 in the Class 4-A upper state championship.Sophomore Marcus Smith (No. 9) scored three goals in Riverside's 5-1 win over Wade Hampton on Tuesday, May 7 in the Class 4-A upper state championship.Sophomore Marcus Smith (No. 9) scored three goals in Riverside's 5-1 win over Wade Hampton on Tuesday, May 7 in the Class 4-A upper state championship.Sophomore Marcus Smith (No. 9) scored three goals in Riverside's 5-1 win over Wade Hampton on Tuesday, May 7 in the Class 4-A upper state championship.Sophomore Marcus Smith (No. 9) scored three goals in Riverside's 5-1 win over Wade Hampton on Tuesday, May 7 in the Class 4-A upper state championship.Sophomore Marcus Smith (No. 2) scored three goals in Riverside's 5-1 win over Wade Hampton on Tuesday, May 7 in the Class 4-A upper state championship.Riverside players celebrate after scoring a goal in Riverside's 5-1 win over Wade Hampton on Tuesday, May 7 in the Class 4-A upper state championship.Riverside players pose after a 5-1 win over Wade Hampton on Tuesday, May 7 in the Class 4-A upper state championship.Sophomore Jeff Bao (No. 5) celebrates after scoring a goal in Riverside's 5-1 win over Wade Hampton on Tuesday, May 7 in the Class 4-A upper state championship.Sophomore Jacob Flessing (No. 15) takes a touch in Riverside's 5-1 win over Wade Hampton on Tuesday, May 7 in the Class 4-A upper state championship.Sophomore Jeff Bao (No. 5) takes a touch in Riverside's 5-1 win over Wade Hampton on Tuesday, May 7 in the Class 4-A upper state championship.

The Kids are Alright: Smith, sophomores star in Riverside's upper-state romp

Trey Stewart's picture
By: 
Trey Stewart

Riverside soccer wasn't supposed to be here.
 
This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the three-time defending state champs. The Warriors graduated 12 seniors last year. They became one of the youngest teams in Region 2 4-A. Riverside was written off by many.
 
Some of those younger Warriors? Well, they didn't take so kindly to being overlooked.
 
"Everyone said we couldn't do it again, we couldn't make it back to state," said sophomore midfielder Jacob Flassing. "We lost so many seniors... people said we were too young."
 
Turns out they were wrong.
 
With a 5-1 win over Wade Hampton on Tuesday night, the youthful Warriors earned a state championship bid for the fourth straight season. A hat-trick of goals from forward Marcus Smith — along with goals from Flassing and sweeper Jeff Bao — helped Riverside cruise to victory.
 
One thing Smith, Flassing, and Bao all have in common? All three are sophomores.
 
"I guess it shows you don't need to be a certain age to score goals," said Smith, smiling and glancing at the 5-1 scoreboard. "Anybody can do it."
 
"Sure, we had a lot of guys graduate last year. But that gave a chance for the younger guys like us to step up," said Bao. "We've filled the roles pretty well."
 
Despite being discredited and overlooked for the supposed inexperience on their roster, Riverside head coach Scott Columbia's confidence never wavered in his team.
 
"I told the guys after training on Sunday night, I said, 'Do you guys realize how many people have counted us out?' But I never once counted them out," said Columbia. "If we just did what we knew we could all year, we knew we'd be right back in this spot.
 
"People like to say this is a rebuilding year. I told them, 'No, this is just a reloading year.'"
 
Smith got Tuesday night's scoring opened in the sixth minute off a close-range assist from Lorenzo Vega. Bao followed up four minutes later, firing home off a rebound to give Riverside a 2-0 lead.
Wade Hampton equalized in the 35th minute, but two minutes later, a fantastic solo effort and finish from Smith gave him a brace, restoring Riverside's two-goal lead at the half.
 
The Warriors dominated on the counter-attack in the second frame, as a long ball over the top found the feet of Smith in the 56th minute to complete his hat trick.
 
"It's insane. This time last year, I was sitting on the bench watching the seniors and everyone else play," said Smith. "Now, I just scored a hat trick in the biggest game of my career."
 
Flassing finished the scoring in the 66th minute with a deflected shot into the bottom left corner of the net.
 
5-1 was the final in Riverside's fourth-straight upper state championship win.
 
For Columbia, who's been the coach for all of them, this one — and this team — is one of his most special.
 
"I can honestly say this is the best team as a whole that I've coached," said Columbia. "I've obviously had the privilege to coach a lot of great teams here for different reasons, but in terms of trusting each other and playing as a cohesive unit, I've never coached a team like this."
 
Riverside will take on James Island in the Class 4-A state championship on Saturday, May 11. The match will be at Memorial Stadium in Columbia with a tentative start time of 7 p.m.
 
The two teams are familiar with each other.
 
Last year, Riverside upended James Island 4-1 to win the 2023 4-A state championship. Every Warrior goal scorer in that game was a senior.
 
Now, it's the new kids' turn to give it a go.
 
"We came out here [against Wade Hampton] with a lot of intensity and just had this will to win," said Smith. "We've got to have that same mindset on Saturday if we want to win it all."
 
GAME RECAP
 
Riverside      3 2 5
 
Wade Hampton 1 0 1
 
SCORING SUMMARY
 
6' | RIVERSIDE - Marcus Smith
10' | RIVERSIDE - Jeff Bao
35' | WADE HAMPTON - Hunter Hamner
37' | RIVERSIDE - Marcus Smith
56' | RIVERSIDE - Marcus Smith
66'| RIVERSIDE - Jacob Flassing

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