Patriots Lose Thriller in Soccer Playoffs
In arguably one of the most memorable girls' soccer matches ever played on the pitch at John William's Athletic Complex, Pinecrest saw its bid to advance out of the district finals of the state playoffs fall just short.
The Patriots lost to the New Hanover Wildcats 4-3 in penalty kicks, after battling the North Carolina Soccer Coaches Association's (NCSCA) seventh ranked 4-A team to a 1-1 tie for 110 minutes of high-drama third-round playoff action.
Up 3-2 through the third round of penalty kicks, Pinecrest was two goals away from a berth in the sectional finals. However, the Patriots were unable to push either of their final two tries into the goal as New Hanover (19-4-1) escaped Southern Pines to advance in the state playoffs.
It was a story of two halves in the playoff tilt at Pinecrest High School.
The Wildcats were on the offensive for virtually the entire first 40 minutes as they outshot Pinecrest 18-2. In an attempt to limit any early goals by New Hanover's potent offense, Pat head coach Todd Abbey opted to play a 4-5-1. His strategy paid off, as the matched remained scoreless through the opening 38 minutes.
With less than two minutes left till intermission, Wildcat senior forward Erin Koballa broke loose, raced towards the box and unleashed a rocket on goal that Patriot sophomore keeper Sarah Dejak deflected with a diving save. Still loose, another forward then bombed the ball from point-blank range at the goal, but Dejak dove again to smother it and end the threat.
On the ensuing punt Koballa, the Duke University signee and three-time all state selection, won the 50-50 ball, broke down the left side of the field and finally found the back of the net on her seventh shot of the match to give New Hanover a 1-0 halftime lead.
In the biggest match of Dejak's young career as a Patriot, the sophomore goalie made 14 of her 27 saves on the night in the first 40 minutes, stopping five of Koballa's tries in the first half and thwarting six of her second half and overtime shots. On the night, Koballa tallied 14 of New Hanover's 40 shots, sending 10 attempts on goal.
As the second half wore on, Pinecrest began to flip the script on the Wildcats. Playing in their customary 3-5-2 set, the Patriots began to get stuck in on tackles and consistently beat New Hanover on 50-50s. Even still, Pinecrest was still down a goal with less than 14 minutes remaining in regulation. That is when the Patriots really stepped up the intensity as they launched a final all-out assault that saw them take several throw-ins deep in Wildcat territory.
A Patriot free kick from New Hanover's 34, by midfielder Keegan Cary, with less than six minutes remaining in the match would set up the game-tying goal. Cary sent a crisply struck the ball into the box, which resulted in a corner kick from the right side. Taking the corner, junior Bailey Pages struck the ball perfectly on goal where Cary jumped up and pounded it into the goal on a header, tying the match at 1-all with 5:31 left to play and sending the Pinecrest faithful into a full-fledged frenzy.
After getting just two shots off in the first stanza, Pinecrest tallied 10 second-half tries, while also showing the ability to possess the ball in the scoring zone. Pages got off five shots in the second half of the match
In the first two 10-minute overtime periods Dejak had five saves to keep the Wildcats off the scoreboard. Meanwhile, Pinecrest forced New Hanover's keeper to save three shots. With less than a minute remaining in the second overtime the Wildcats apparently scored the go-ahead goal after a free kick, but their celebration was short-lived as the line judge ruled the kicker offside.
As a result, the match then went to two 5-minute sudden-death overtimes. With less than two minutes remaining in the first sudden-death period, Dejak again made a game-saving diving stop on a low liner destined for the bottom left shelf of the goal. Neither team had any serious attempts after the play as the overtime portion gave way to penalty kicks.
Pinecrest, who didn't lose a conference match in claiming the Mid-Southeastern Conference championship, finished the season at 18-5-0. The Patriots will return every player to next year's squad except one. It was senior midfielder Lyndsey Anderson's last match, as she wrapped up a stellar career at Pinecrest.
Contact F.W. Manning at 639-5481 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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