Double Hat Trick Leads Patriots
The 12-game winning streak remained intact for the Pinecrest girls’ soccer team in the first round of the state 4-A playoffs Tuesday, as it easily dispatched South View at John Williams Field by a score of 6-0.
And in remarkable repeat performances, both forwards Antonia Meyers and Kristen Phelps added to their collection of hat tricks, Meyers with her fifth of the season and Phelps with her second, having back-to-back games with three goals.
The Tigers (11-12-1), who finished third in the Mid-South conference behind Jack Britt and Terry Sanford, gave the Patriots a good effort, according to coach Bryan Pagan.
“I’m proud of the effort from our girls in the first 20 minutes,” said Pagan, “but Pinecrest is such a good team that we just couldn’t stay with them.
“Our team has seven seniors, but we have had a tough season due to injuries, including losing our starting goalkeeper in the second game of the season with a shoulder injury. I’m pleased with how far this team has come.”
South View couldn’t find an answer for the possession-
driven style of play employed by Pinecrest, especially with Meyers keeping her foot on the ball in the first half.
She opened the scoring in the first 15 minutes of the match with an assist from veteran midfielder Ally Parziale, who found Meyers moving in from the right side of the box with a defender closely marking the Patriot senior.
Junior Keegan Lynch notched two amazing assists, with her first to Meyers in the 25th minute of the first half. Lynch brought the ball down the right side where she found Meyers breaking in front of the goal to extend the lead to 2-0.
Five minutes later, Meyers prevailed with her third goal, a header, set up with a perfect assist from Megan Thomas.
The fourth goal of the first half allowed Phelps to find the scoring column, as Kelly Palmer dribbled down the left side in coverage and managed to find the wide-open Phelps for an easy shot after the Tiger goalkeeper came out of the box.
The halftime score of 4-0 fell in the first 36 ticks of the second half with Lynch again spotting a teammate in the box. This time it was Phelps accepting the ball for the quick score.
Parziale’s second assist was an effortless touch pass to Phelps, who buried the ball with a long chip-shot for the final goal at the halfway point of the second half.
Lynch said after the game that, while they don’t practice “assists,” she and the forwards have just continued to click together.
“It’s pretty exciting when you find your teammates open like that,” she smiled, “and Toni and I have that ‘connection’ right now.
“We’re so united as a team at this point and, honestly, it really is a lot of fun.”
She and fellow junior Megan Thomas thought the Patriots did well for what Thomas called a “slow-paced” game and, as a team, tried to swing the tempo more toward some new formations they’ve been working on.
“We have to be ready for any kind of game, since we don’t know who we’ll be playing,” she said, “but that’s the excitement and challenge of the playoffs. I know we’ll be ready.”
Coach Ray Blatz was very pleased with the team’s first playoff win and, of course, he liked the way the girls played the possession game that he favors.
“Because we played into our forwards (Meyers and Phelps), our penetration came through midfield,” he explained, “and that way we were able to get deep and play balls into the ‘dangerous’ areas around the box. Tonight that worked well for us, and Antonia and Kristen were able to finish the nice passes they took in close.”
He addressed some recent injuries, including junior forward Kathryn Palmer, who absorbed a tough hit to the knee in last week’s conference tournament.
“Hopefully she’ll be healthy enough to play in Friday’s game, but we also lost Kaitlyn Conner today with a non-soccer-related knee injury,” Blatz said, adding, “Haley Robinson is beginning to heal, as well. All of these girls are a game-to-game decision.”
Blatz was reflective and cautious when asked if he was comfortable with where the team is after the first test.
“As we move forward, do I think we can improve as a group?” he said. “Yes, and definitely, our best games are in front of us.
“However, in order to continue to go where this team wants to go, I am comfortable that where we are is a very good place for our team to be right now.”
Pinecrest will play on Friday night at 6 p.m. at home against Ashley High School, from the Wilmington area.
Playoff admission cost is $6.
More like this story