Patriots Outlast Bears to Advance in Playoffs
Pinecrest prevailed over New Bern Wednesday in a third-round state 4-A soccer playoff thriller that was decided with penalty kicks.
After 110 minutes of action on the pitch at John Williams Athletic Complex in Southern Pines, the Patriots and visiting Bears were deadlocked in a scoreless tie. Eventually, Pinecrest pulled out the District 2 championship victory, advancing on to the Eastern Regional semifinal round, with a winning penalty-kick (PK) tally of 3-2.
Senior keeper Mitchell Dotson came through with some timely saves in the contest, including a clutch stop on a clear breaker chance by New Bern when he managed to make a tremendous kick save to prevent a certain Bears goal in the 48th minute.
“It feels great to be moving forward,” said Dotson. “My stomach was going crazy out there during the match, and I was saying to myself, ‘This is not going to be my last soccer game.’ As a team I felt like we showed a large amount of enthusiasm and work ethic, and in the end we got our result.
“When it is all said and done, I have a feeling this will be the game to always remember. It is no doubt one of the most intense games I have ever played in high school. The major bonus was seeing our fans and students out to support us for this one — it was great to have that many people in the stands.”
Through one half of the action, Pinecrest had its fair share of quality scoring chances. The Pats took a total of 11 shots in the stanza, forcing Bear goalie Christian Hansen to make five saves. New Bern got off three shots in the half, putting one try on goal.
With the start of the second half, momentum shifted a bit. Pinecrest’s characteristically crisp, accurate passes were missing their mark much more than usual. The result was a back-and-forth battle for control in the midfield for a tense eight-minute span.
After the match, New Bern head coach Tim Guter assessed the nature of the game along with both teams’ performances.
“When you occupy the space that Pinecrest wants to move into,” Guter said, “and you have bodies there, it disrupts their typical passing-based possession brand of soccer. So we did a decent job of that tonight
“I tell people all the time, this is a very difficult place to play. No matter who comes in here — whether it’s a Wilmington school, a Raleigh school or a coastal school — it is so difficult to come to Pinecrest to play, because they have an aura about this field and don’t lose here very often.”
Before Dotson’s save, it seemed New Bern was close to capturing control of the contest with their disciplined and organized defensive style. The tide of the tilt then shifted back in favor of Pinecrest, as the Patriots began to play with a renewed sense of urgency for the remainder of regulation after seeing their senior keeper’s keen stop.
Throughout the final 28 minutes of the second half, Pinecrest applied steady pressure. Over the span, the Pats outshot New Bern 14 to three and placed eight shots on goal, including three balls that bounced off the left post.
“Our touch was a bit off tonight,” said Patriot head coach Todd Abbey, “but, to be honest, all the credit has to go to New Bern. Tim (Guter) was an all-state coach last spring (with the girls), and his team was very well-organized out there. They remained patient throughout and made us pay for most of the miscues we made this match.
“On our side, we didn’t figure it out early enough tonight, and then when we did get our chances, we did not finish."
In a late surge, the Pats managed to mount an all-out eight-minute assault on the Bear goal. Over that span Pinecrest had one corner kick, two deep throw-ins and placed nine shots on goal. Two of those tries hit the left frame of the goal, while almost all of the others came from within or just outside of the penalty area.
With the match still scoreless, it first went into the overtime phase consisting of two 10-minute periods of non-sudden-death play. After 100 minutes of regulation the match remained knotted up at 0-0 as play moved to the golden goal phase, which is two five-minute sudden death periods. Finally, with a winner still not decided, the match came down to PKs, as each team sent five players out to shoot “mano-a-mano” against the opposing keeper.
The final result was a victory via a 3-2 final tally, as Pinecrest got consecutive goals from Hayden Little, Dane Nelsen and Nick Kruyer to cinch the deal and advance to round four.
“Every team comes in here, wanting to win because it’s lose and go home,” said Kruyer, who ultimately made the game-winning PK. “That was definitely the case tonight with New Bern. It is good to have this test behind us. It will make us stronger for the rest of the playoffs and it just feels great to get the win.
“It feels awesome to have a crowd like we did here tonight, with all the fans cheering, because it gets all the players pumped up. I just hope if we are lucky enough to get another home game here that they come out again.”
Abbey stated after the match that he hated it had to come down to PKs.
“Although a soccer game does have to end some way,” he said, “and it is the easiest solution. At least in high school, they give you the opportunity to do the overtimes and the golden goal (periods) and then end it with PKs.
“Shifting gears, I would personally like to thank everybody that came out tonight because that was an awesome crowd. I have only seen it twice in my career here. Once was the semifinal game two years ago, but the difference in that crowd and tonight’s is this one kept it clean.
“When they migrated en masse — led by a large student contingent — to the far side of the stands for the PKs that was just awesome. In the end that makes a huge difference so I really appreciate everybody coming out, as do our players and staff.”
The Patriots (21-2-2) will travel to Wilmington Saturday, where they will face E.A. Laney High (17-2, Mideastern Conference top seed) in the quarterfinals. The sectional title match is scheduled to kickoff at 7 p.m.
Contact F.W. Manning II at email@example.com
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