The Lake Norman Charter soccer team scored twice in the second half to edge Wilkes Central, 3-1, in the second round of the 2A state playoffs Wednesday on Kulynych Field at Lowe’s Park at River’s Edge in Wilkesboro.
“What a match!” exclaimed Central Coach Matt Matthews. “We had two of the best teams in the state going head-to-head in Wilkesboro for a fight that none of these players, coaches or fans will soon forget.”
Lake Norman, champions of the South Fork 2A Conference, improved to 16-0 and will host Salisbury Friday in the 2A West Region semifinals. Lake Norman is an “incredibly strong team with many girls who are already committed to play at the next level,” noted Matthews.
Wilkes Central, which captured a fourth straight Mountain Valley 1A/2A Athletic Conference championship, ended the season with a 15-1 record. Matthews said that he and Brooke Bentley, the team’s assistant coach, were “so proud of these girls, their work ethic and their heart.”
Knights forward Asha Means broke a 1-1 tie at the break with a goal about 13 minutes into the second half. The senior, who has committed to play at UNC-Chapel Hill, scored, following a corner kick by Haven Stanley, from about 10 yards out.
“We could not get the corner kick cleared away from danger, and after a scrum in front of the net, the ball was slotted between goalposts,” noted Matthews. “This is one of those goals that just as easily could have gone our way on the other end, but last night it just didn't fall.”
Lake Norman iced it with a goal from sophomore Kayla Patel with just a few minutes left in the game. Patel booted the ball just left of diving Eagle goalie Journey McCrimmon, who made several outstanding saves during the heavily contested, physical match.
The late goal occurred after the Eagles “made a late game change to apply more pressure into the middle and final thirds of the field,” according to Matthews.
The Eagles got on the board first, about eight minutes into the contest, with a short-range goal by Zoe Susi, who received a pinpoint cross from the right side of the pitch from junior Adeline Nichols.
The 30-yard cross from Nichols caught Susi in stride, and the all-state junior headed it into the back of the goal from about five yards out. It was the first time that Lake Norman had trailed all season.
“Our Lady Eagles came in to fight with everything they had, and our opening attack led to an early goal and what looked like an excellent opportunity to finish the way we planned,” Matthews said.
The Knights answered about three minutes later with a breakaway goal by Means, who was fed on the play by Zoe Sellers, from about 15 yards out. The match was then tied, 1-1, and that score held up until halftime.
“Our girls found much resolve and confidence at halftime as we reviewed our plan and encouraged girls to keep fighting,” said Matthews.
Lake Norman freshman goalkeeper Imani Anzaya had three saves.