Pats Advance to Fourth Round
Two highlight reel goals by Gray Anderson helped the Pinecrest boys get by Wilmington Laney 3-2 in a state playoff soccer match at home Tuesday evening.
The 10th-ranked Patriots (18-5-2) advance to the fourth round of the 4A playoffs for the third year in a row. They entertain No. 11 Harnett Central (19-3-1) in a match that gets under way at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Harnett Central is the first seed from the Greater Neuse River Conference. The Trojans moved along with a 3-0 win over Hoggard on Tuesday.
Dane Nelsen got the Patriots off to a good start against Laney by scoring the opening goal for the fourth-straight match. In the 15th minute, the junior fought for a ball sent into the Buc penalty box by Taylor Morton. He had four or five touches amid congestion before knocking the ball past the goalkeeper.
Anderson was the beneficiary of perfect service provided by Chris Sanders and Justin Mace for his two goals, both on headers.
In the 23rd minute, Sanders converted his right foot into a pitching wedge and sent a soft ball across the Buc penalty from the right toward an unmarked Anderson near the far post.
“He just floated it over the top,” Anderson said. “I saw the goalkeeper was there so I kind of chipped it over his head.”
Now leading 2-0, the goal-scoring continued at a feverish pace. In the 29th minute, the Bucs’ Stephen Cone pounced on a Patriot turnover about 25 yards from the goal and unloaded a shot that deflected off a Patriot player into the net, making it 2-1. About four minutes later, Anderson was left alone again at the far post. He had only to take aim this time on a hard cross sent into the penalty box by Mace. The emphatic finish made it 3-1.
Patriot coach Todd Abbey was impressed by the quality of his team’s goals.
“Dane dribbled through three people and slid it in,” he said. “The cross by Chris Sanders was amazing, and Justin put the ball right on the dime. Gray didn’t even have to move.”
A second-half goal by Anderson that would have put the home team in a nice comfort zone was waved off by the referee. The Patriots had a number of other chances to add to the margin before the Bucs made things uncomfortable.
In the 70th minute, the Bucs’ Mike Walsh drove a corner kick from the right to the far side of the penalty area. John Gupton headed it back inside where tall Buc defender Matt Johnston redirected the ball into the net, making it 3-2.
In the final half minute, a free kick from about 30 yards away by Walsh was deflected wide of the near post by one of the Patriots. The resulting corner kick by Walsh with eight ticks left on the clock was volleyed safely away by Anderson as time ran out.
Laney finished the season with a record of 12-9-1. The only other time Pinecrest and Harnett Central met was in 1998 when the Patriots picked up a 3-2 home win. The Trojans will be the third Greater Neuse team the Patriots have faced in these playoffs (Garner and East Wake were the others).The survivor of Saturday’s East semifinal will travel to the winner of the match between Athens Drive (18-3-4) and No. 2 ranked C.E. Jordan (22-0) next Tuesday or Wednesday.
The four remaining teams in the West bracket are South Mecklenburg, Myers Park, William Hough and Lake Norman. Myers Park eliminated No. 1 ranked Page, the defending state champion, 3-1 on Saturday.
The Patriots and their opponents have benefited all season by how quickly the ball girls and boys get the ball back into play. The regulars of the group are members of the AC Sandhills girls’ U-13 team.
Contact Charlie Bergmann at email@example.com.
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