May 19, 2010
It seemed almost scripted by a studio screenwriter.
FADE IN: Asheboro's Lee Stone Stadium -- Saturday
Second Round 3A State Soccer Playoffs; 90-plus-degree-weather....sudden-death action... in a hostile environment
A toss by Union Pines' freshman Maddie Kramer, finds senior scorer extraordinaire Anna "Fancy Feet" Pilson. She controls the pass, jukes left toward the end line finding space near the left post between two defenders, swiflty slides the ball to her right foot, takes the shot and....its.... a...SCORE.....UNION PINES WIIIINNNNNNSSSS....
The Lady Vikes claim their first EVER second round playoff victory in Union Pines' school history...advancing to today's third round match in Raleigh...at 7th ranked Cardinal Gibbons.
That play, in one way, was a -- "passing" of the torch -- so to speak and excuse the pun. But in another it was the turn of the key setting off the final ignition of what has been the most successful senior class in UPHS girls' soccer history.
NOTE the "passing" of the torch" aspect will be examined later, marked: ^^TEXT^^
Tonight at 6 p.m. Union Pines will take the pitch in Raleigh against the Cardinal Gibbons Crusaders. A win for the Vikes will be a tall order on paper, while also considering history
Established in 1909, Cardinal Gibbons High School is a private coeducational college-preparatory Catholic high school in Raleigh, North Carolina. Before moving up to a 3-A classification this school year The Lady Crusaders went a combined 61-7-4 over the past three seasons out of the 2A Mid-State conference, with a 2007 state title, and semifinal playoff losses in 08 and 09. Over that stretch Gibbons outscored its opponents by a mind-boggling tally of 333-25. In the playoffs Gibbons is 16-2 in its last 18 matches.
This years Crusader team has not been quite so dominate, mainly due to the fact that they had one of the toughest regular season schedules of all 3A teams. However, at 13-4-3 they are ranked 7th in the current coaches poll after knocking off then 5th ranked Williams High in round two
A member of the Carolina Conference, stout in soccer excellence, the Crusaders finished their conference campaign at 8-1-1 to place second to Chapel Hill, the sixth ranked team in the state, losing to them once 2-0 and tying them the next time at 1-all.
Out of their 4 total losses one came in a 2-1 final to top shelf 4A school East Chapel Hill, (21-2-3) which is the third-ranked 4A school. Their other two losses were by 1-0 scores, coming to the first- and fourth-ranked 2A schools in in Forbush (23-0) and Swansboro (19-4-1) respectively. Meanwhile they played 3A third-ranked White Oaks (20-1-2), to 1-all draw.
Overall on the year CGHS has scored 65 goals while allowing just 11 and is 11-0-1 in its last 12 matches. Union Pines has scored 53 goals this year and allowed 21 while riding a current 6-match win streak.
So...the Vikes will enter their match tonight as heavy underdogs on the road, at a stadium likely to be filled with enthusiastic supporters along with an organized and die hard student-fan-club army, which from past experience, would make the Cameron Crazies proud.
But in a way, that is to be expected given the fortunes of UPHS's 10 seniors Ally Faris, Kacey Graner, Summer Hennings, Melissa Hoffman, Kayla Lively, Katie McKenzie, Anna Pilson, Claudia Quiros, Ellie Reynolds and Taylor Logan Smith. Over their career as Lady Vikes nothing has ever really come easy and in fact, most times things have been downright complicated as they have had a different head coach in each of their four seasons.
Their Saturday triumph is the first prime example in a long line of occasions to support this claim:
A season ago the Vikes won the Cape Fear Valley Conference Championship in a dramatic season long battle with Western Harnett, topping the Lady Eagles head-to head 1-0 to clinch the title. The Vikes went on to win in round one playing at New Century, before being forced to host their second round match at Southern Lee, (due to construction at Woodrow Wilhoit Stadium), where they fell 1-0 to Northeast Guilford.
It was the second time in three seasons Union Pines had fallen 1-0 in round two of the state playoffs. Back in 2007 Union Pines went a perfect 14-0 in league play to win the CFV Crown. After a 2-0 win over Nash Central the Vikes fell 1-0 to visiting Western Alamance in their first ever round two match to finish 21-1-1 on the year.
The roles were reversed for Union Pines Saturday in Asheboro. The Lady Blue Comets came into the match having won their first playoff match in school history, and faced a Lady Vike team that had topped them 2-1 early in the season.
As soon as the second-round pairing was set, drama ensued.
Rumors began floating in the Vike camp that The Blue Comet's had felt Union Pines' win against them was a "fluke", with Asheboro supposedly feeling they had completely dominated the contest in every way, except on the scoreboard.
According to official stats from the Blue Comet score keeper Asheboro out shot Union Pines 31-8 in the two teams' first meeting. However when the match ended Union Pines side of the scoreboard had a "TWO," while Asheboro's side had a "ONE."
Adding more fuel to the fire was the fact that Union Pines' was holding its prom on Saturday Night.
Entering the second round rematch with Asheboro, the cards seemed to be stacked against the Vikings. With Union Pines holding its prom on Saturday night, Viking head coach Jeremy Blake lobbied for a Friday night match however Asheboro did not comply, instead compromising for an 11 a.m. Saturday start.
When Union Pines took the pitch Saturday morning, it was greeted by a sizable and enthusiastic home crowd. The home fans included a large student contingent that constantly shouted jeering chants throughout the game, from the first three rows of the bleachers.
Back in Union Pines' 2007 undefeated CFV conference campaign, The Lady Vikes had to withstand 4 overtimes before ultimately winning 4-2 in penalty kicks over league foe Harnett Central to concrete its 14-0 undefeated conference championship in a senior night marathon thriller to close the regular season.
The next season, sophomore Anna Pilson who scored 20 goals and had 9 assists as a freshman starter, along with senior forward and top scoring Brittany Thurlow were plaughed throughout the year by multiple injuries.
(Ultimatley Pilson decided to sit out the rest of the year in the best interest of her team. However she came back out as a junior rededicated to her teammates, as a rekindled spark in her romance with the game led her to finish the season with all-region honors and lead UP in goals and assists.)
Then in the second to last match of the 2008 regular season, Thurlow received a red card and two-game suspension, due to an incident involving fist-a-cuffs in self defense. As a result she was forced to sit out the Vikes' round-one playoff match in Greensboro where they were soundly defeated 6-1 by 4th ranked Western Guilford ending a disappointing 10-8-2 2008-campaign, which saw Union Pines place third in the CFV final standings.
Union Pines' entered the current season with the promise of putting arguably its strongest all-around team in history on the pitch. Many players had state title asipirations from the onset. However an early season-ending injury to super-soph center fullback Jessie Wilson threw a major wrench into the equation.
Meanwhile, several Vikes missed a majority of the squads opening 6 games due to the School Musical. Then sophomore sensation Carly Lively was sidelined for over two weeks due to illness as Union Pines was 4-5 on the year.
However, after a league victory, the Vikes then traveled to Asheboro for a non-conference match. Union Pines came away with a hard fought 2-1 win that proved to be a turning point in the season.
The match entered intermission in a scoreless tie, although Asheboro had dictated the pace and controlled much of the action in the first half.
The homestanding Blue Comets struck first early in the second half to take a 1-0 lead. However in the final 35 minutes of action, Union Pines’ defense completely shutdown Asheboro’s attack and the Lady Vikings began possessing the ball with purpose and poise. A goal by senior Kacey Graner on an assist from captain Kayla Lively knotted the match at 1-all.
Pilson later scored the game winner with time dwindling down, when she received a ball out wide on the far right side, gathered it and fired a laser past the keeper into the back of the net.
Since then, Carly Lively has regained her form from last season, when she was second in goals scored and third in assists for UPHS. Meanwhile, freshmen Kramer, Elena D'Argenio and Becca Greene have matured into solid contributors. D'Argenio replaced Wilson on the back line and Greene has been money as a sub in both the back- and in the mid-fields
^^ Kramer, a season long starter, scored her first career UPHS goal in the form of a game-winner to give the Vikes a 1-0 league win versus Gray's Creek in the second CFV contest of the season. The freshman forward/midfielder, who has 6 goals and 4 assists on the year, got her first career playoff score 4 minutes into the Vikes first round 2-0 win against Orange and her first career assist on her toss to Pilson who now has 8 game winning goals on the year and leads the Vikes in goals (16) and assists with (15) ^^
Union Pines record is 9-2-1 since its first win at Asheboro back in late March...