Viking Girls Wear the Crown
Make it two in a row for the Union Pines Lady Viking soccer team.
With a 5-1 drubbing of league foe Southern Lee Wednesday at Woodrow Wilhoit Stadium in Cameron, Union Pines (13-2-1) clinched its second consecutive 3-A Cape Fear Valley Conference Crown.
Coming back from spring break, the defending league champions returned re-energized and fielding a complete roster for the first time all season.
Needless to say, the results spoke for themselves.
Monday Union Pines dismantled then-second place Gray’s Creek (10-6-1, 5-3 CFVC) by a 4-0 margin, before cruising to the four-goal victory against third-place Southern Lee (7-5-1, 6-3).
All season Union Pines senior captain Carly Lively has talked about the Vikings earning respect. In her postgame comments she touched on that topic yet again.
“I think for a while, prior to spring break, we were becoming stagnant and not really mixing things up that much,” said Lively. “Now with the changes we have made, along with having our full roster ready, I have really noticed an improvement — especially from Becca Greene, who is playing well in the midfield, and I really feel like that is the position for her.
“She has really stepped up and is playing awesome soccer, and it’s great to have (Kati) LaForge back too.”
With the return of starting freshman phenom forward Kati LaForge, who missed a little more than a month of action because of a stress fracture, head coach Jeremy Blake has done some shifting to his lineup.
The major move pushed Greene from a center-back to the midfield and dropped sophomore Catie Driver, who is also at full strength after a lingering muscle injury, into a center-fullback position.
An all-conference selection last season with 10 assists and nine goals to her credit, Driver discussed her new role on the Vike back line.
“I have played in the back before,” Driver said, “and so far Blake has been working with me a lot in practice on the tactical aspects and responsibilities that come with being a center-back.
“From back there I can see the whole field and everybody on our team. So that allows me to help be a supportive vocal director and tell our players when, where and how to pick up marks. So I really like it back there.”
The results thus far have been a deeper, more organized and versatile Union Pines squad, which is currently the 13th ranked 3-A team in the state according to Eurosportscoreboard.com
In Wednesday’s contest with Southern Lee, Union Pines controlled the action from the onset and carried a 3-0 lead into intermission.
The Vikings scored their first-half goals in a frenetic four-minute attack that started with 27:10 to go in the stanza.
First, freshman midfielder Abby Verchick zipped a deft cross to the far post that found sophomore Hannah Kiser, who made an athletic touch to volley the ball into the net. Next, Lively scored after Bri Orloff sent a big service on goal that Verchick collected and then slid over towards center-frame for her second assist of the night.
The final strike came in the 16th minute, when LaForge connected with sophomore center-mid Kooba Richard for a perfectly executed give-and-go score that began from the top of the penalty box.
Early in the second half Southern Lee trimmed the Vike lead to 3-1 on a penalty kick (PK), in one of a handful of highlights for the visiting Cavs.
Less than two minutes after the PK score, Union Pines replied as Orloff sent a huge bomb down field that found LaForge, who promptly bested the charging keeper to push the margin to 4-1 in the 48th minute.
Richard rounded out the scoring in the 61st minute on an unassisted laser from mid-range that blasted into the back portion of the upper-left net.
The victory extended Union Pines’ current undefeated streak to 26 games in CFVC action.
With just two league tilts left on their schedule the Vikings are atop the league standings with a mark of 9-0-1.
The tie came in a conference match against Overhills in Spring Lake that was originally suspended at half time – due to a passing thunderstorm — with the contest knotted at nil-nil.
At the time of the suspension it was settled the game would be finished at a later date, but with second-place Overhills currently sitting at 6-2-1 in the standings, it has since been determined the half will count as full conference game.
Because Union Pines topped Overhills once already this season in league action, the Vikings have clinched the top CFVC seed in the state 3-A playoffs and (at worst) a share of the league championship.
“Despite these last two results we just want to continue to get better,” said Lively, “and also still try to get some more respect — especially with this whole Overhills leaving our match as a tie thing, which is not cool — so we just want to keep moving forward because we are here to play and go far in states (playoffs).”
The Vikings are scheduled to return to the pitch in a league match Monday against Western Harnett (1-12, 1-7) at 7 p.m. in Lillington.
Contact F.W. Manning II at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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