Patriots Wrap Up Conference Title in Soccer
There were a lot of smiles and hugs, and maybe even some tears on the traditional striped throw-back senior night jerseys, as the Pinecrest girls’ soccer team (10-0-0) collected another unblemished conference championship at the expense of the visiting Hoke County Bucks at the John Williams Athletic Field on Wednesday evening.
The final score was 6-0, boosting the state’s sixth-ranked 4-A team’s overall record to 14-1-2. Pinecrest was scheduled to play at Terry Sanford on Thursday. Hoke County fell to 7-10-3 overall and 2-7-1 conference.
Coach Ray Blatz’s parting instruction in the girls’ pre-game huddle was simple: have fun.
And energized by a three-goal flurry in the middle of the first half, the game, which was never in doubt, appeared to be fun as Pinecrest played a fast-paced, possess-the-ball soccer match with their upperclassmen leading the way and taking charge of the game.
Once again, senior standout Antonia Meyers provided offensive power in her third game of the season with a trio of goals, posting three of the five first-half goals.
In the ninth minute of the game, she went head-to-head with the Bucks’ goalie and found the back of the net for the first score. During a span of three minutes, a Kathryn Palmer shot sailed slightly wide and was re-directed easily into the goal by senior Kristen Phelps, who was sprinting down the left side of the field. One minute later, Palmer did connect on another shot, making the score 3-0.
Only two quick minutes elapsed before Keegan Cary settled a short goal kick by the Bucks and found Meyers in scoring position, tallying again from 12 feet out. She collected her third goal with 14 minutes left in the first half, providing the Patriots with a 5-0 halftime cushion.
Freshman Sophia Flores raced down the right side of the field in the 68th minute, easing the final goal in past the goalkeeper unassisted, for a 6-0 conclusion.
Abbey Crider was credited with another complete shutout in the goal for the Patriots.
Hoke County coach Derek Butler had nothing but praise for the Patriots, but was very proud of his team’s effort against the Southeastern Conference champions.
“Our team showed a lot of character in the second half of the game,” noted the head coach. “We’re a little down in numbers right now and trying to build our program, but you know, we always get the best out of Pinecrest. They obviously deserved to win tonight.
“They showed a lot of class, like they do over here, but we just couldn’t get the ball away from them. I was proud of our effort.”
The Pinecrest seniors — Meyers, Phelps, Cary, Ally Parziale and Heather Brock — gave Blatz reason to contemplate his team’s nucleus, a fun-loving, tight-knit and very talented group of young ladies.
“Senior night is always one of my favorite nights during the season, but also sad since I’ve been with these girls for four years,” said Blatz. “Each girl has so many unique and special traits and I’ve enjoyed watching them learn and grow from freshmen into seniors.
“They’ve taught each of the underclassmen how to play high school varsity soccer.”
The five were introduced in a halftime recognition ceremony with their families, and they were clearly touched by the many gestures of love and support from their teammates.
Phelps acknowledged it was a “last hoorah” of sorts for many of them who wouldn’t be part of organized soccer in college.
“The fact that our team backed us up and showed us so much support tonight was very reassuring because of everything that we want to accomplish this season,” she said.
Cary and Parziale appreciated the closeness of the team and mentioned Brock’s favorite quote from her senior introduction: ‘Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.’ The smiles and Blatz’s instruction for fun hopefully will take the Patriots into postseason play next week as the Southeastern Conference tournament begins on Wednesday.
Junior varsity coach Evan Saleeby’s team also took a 6-0 victory from the visitors. Scoring for the Patriots were Maya McGregor and Kaitlyn Carter with two each, and Catherine Cirigliano and Olivia McKinney each with one. They headed into the final game of the season at Terry Sanford with an 11-3 record.
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