Patient Patriots Seek to Continue Playoff Run
Patience has been a virtue for a Pinecrest squad that has had to survive two overtime matches to advance in the 4/A state boys' soccer playoffs.
An overtime goal by John Kropp gave the Patriots (19-2-3) a 1-0 victory over Pine Forest (15-7) Saturday night, punching their ticket to the third round. They will be at home again at 7 p.m. on Wednesday to meet Wilmington Ashley.
The Patriots jumped six spots to No. 8 in Monday's 4/A North Carolina Soccer Coaches Association top 15 poll.
Coach Larry Martin's squad was also extended into overtime before defeating West Johnston 3-1 in the first round last Wednesday. Against defensive-minded Pine Forest, the Patriots kept the pressure on the Trojan third for 97 minutes before putting one in the back of the net.
"I would have to say by the middle of the second half, I was pretty frustrated," Martin said. "Then I realized frustration was the wrong feeling to have. Patience was the most important thing. That's what I kept conveying to the guys."
In a match wherethe Patriots built a 32 to seven advantage in shots, the Trojans had also survived a relentless barrage of crosses and 14 corner kicks.
But with three minutes remaining in the second overtime period, the Pats' Matt Carriker carried the ball down the right side, a Trojan defender matching him step for step. Instead of settling for another cross, the senior made a sharp cut into the penalty box where he unloaded a shot that was knocked down by goalkeeper Eddie Black. Kropp stepped into the loose ball and put it in the net.
"I see professionals do that, so you've got to employ that in your game," Carriker said of the move inside. "That was the key to the goal. I hit it and then John made a great play following through."
Three of the four Patriot goals in the two playoff games have been scored in overtime off balls rolling around in the penalty box.
"In the playoffs, you don't get those great opportunities because everybody's flailing all over the place," Kropp said. "This could be their last opportunity to ever play. So you're not going to get that perfect setup. When you make a great move like Matt did to get open, you have to take care of those chances."
Patriot goalkeeper Matt Scott was seriously tested only one time, diving to push away a Trojan shot in the 54th minute. The shutout was the Pats' 12th of the season.
"That was a great save by Matt," Martin said. "One of the things I told the players was that while you're trying to figure out the puzzle of how to put one in the net, make sure you're doing the other thing you're supposed to do -- make sure they don't get something easy on a counterattack. We pretty much snuffed those out."
The Trojans were encouraged by an enthusiastic group of supporters that draped a "Punish Those Patriots" banner across the bleachers on their side.
The Patriot players were impressed with the brave effort by their opponent.
"They just kept going," Kropp said. "No. 23 in the back (Travis Williams) never got tired and was all over me and Matt the entire game."
Kropp said that he and his teammates remained confident the winning goal would eventually come.
"What has helped us out is we've known we're the better team," he said. "Not panicking has really helped us in the games here."
Pinecrest and New Hanover are the only first seeds left, of the original eight, in the East bracket.
Wednesday's other quarter-final level regional match-ups have East Chapel Hill (12-9-1) at New Hanover (20-2-1), Apex (15-4-2) at Green Hope (17-3-2), and Fuquay-Varina (15-7) at Millbrook (18-4).
Pinecrest and Ashley, the second seed from the Mideastern Conference, have each defeated Laney, Hoggard, Terry Sanford and Jack Britt.
Ashley advanced with a 4-3 overtime win at Terry Sanford on Saturday.
In their last meeting, Ashley defeated the Patriots 3-2 in the first round of the 2004 playoffs.
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