Pats Oust Bulldogs, Eye New Hanover
A steady rain fell throughout the match, but it didn't dampen the mood on the visitors' sideline after Pinecrest's boys soccer team knocked off homestanding Terry Sanford 2-1 Tuesday in the third round of the Class 4A playoffs.
The Southeastern Conference champion Patriots (16-4-1) advance to a quarterfinal rematch against the team that broke their hearts a season ago, New Hanover. And for icing on their soggy cakes, they learned after the match that top-ranked Durham Jordan was upset 2-1 by Green Hope.
"It's nice to come away with a win," said first-year head coach Todd Abbey. "These guys, they're back where they were last year, and that was their next goal."
The Mideastern Conference champion, New Hanover, improved to 14-4-3 overall by ousting conference foe Laney 4-2 Tuesday. The Wildcats host Pinecrest Saturday at 7 p.m. with the sectional championship on the line. Both teams entered the North Carolina Soccer Coaches Association rankings this week, with New Hanover coming in at 14th and Pinecrest ranked 15th.
The champion from the Mid-South Conference, Terry Sanford (18-5-1), was ranked 13th in the poll but saw its season ended by fouls in the penalty area. Pinecrest was awarded three penalty kicks in the match, two of which were converted into goals by senior forward Max Brenner.
"We were fortunate," said Abbey. "Three penalty kicks given, two made. They were all legit too, I feel. We earned them."
The first came in the 19th minute when Brenner was taken down in the penalty area by Terry Sanford defender Macon Bullard after receiving a deflected shot off the foot of teammate Sam Ivey. Brenner beat Terry Sanford keeper Scott Plummer right to put the Patriots ahead 1-0.
That was the score at halftime, with Pinecrest outshooting the Bulldogs 9-4, including a 4-2 edge in shots on goal.
The Patriots had a chance to extend the lead in the 31st minute when Gray Anderson was taken down in the area, but Ivey's penalty kick was stopped this time by Plummer, who had five saves on the night.
The second goal came nine minutes into the second half with Brenner and Bullard chasing down a ball in the right corner of a field that was increasingly looking more like a pond. Bullard slid past the ball with a fistful of Brenner's jersey, causing both players to tumble. The foul was flagged by the assistant referee, and Brenner again beat Plummer to the right to extend the lead to 2-0.
"It's always interesting when you get games like this," said Abbey. "It can go either way, field conditions. You want to come out early and get up, because it's always tougher to score late."
Terry Sanford gained new life after Brenner's second goal and put three shots on goal in the final 30 minutes, finally breaking onto the scoreboard in the 66th minute after Pinecrest was whistled for a foul just outside the area and left. A quick kick by senior forward Rocket Court beat Pinecrest keeper Lewis Cable to the left to bring the Bulldogs within 2-1, but that was as close as they'd get.
After the match, the Patriots turned their collective attention to New Hanover. In the state quarterfinals last season, the Wildcats scored with 11 seconds showing on the clock to eliminate Pinecrest by a 1-0 score. New Hanover went on to play for the state championship, falling 4-3 to Myers Park.
"Honestly, the boys kind of wanted New Hanover," Abbey said. "We don't even mind going there. They beat us at our place last year, so it would be nice to go down there and do the same to them."
A crowd of approximately 45 Pinecrest supporters made the trip and braved the weather to support the Patriots, who were clad in green jerseys and white shorts.
The win marks the second time this season Pinecrest has beaten Terry Sanford, as the Patriots handed the Bulldogs a 2-0 loss in both teams' season opener.
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