RALEIGH Hough High girls’ soccer coach David Smith said the only players he’s seen that are faster than sophomore forward Sarah Moon are playing on area boys’ teams.
And it was her speed that national No. 1 Cary Green Hope couldn’t handle Saturday at N.C. State. It was a big reason Hough won its first girls’ state 4A soccer championship in dramatic fashion.
Smith put Moon back into the game with 15 minutes left and begged her to give him everything she had. Moon responded with two goals, including the game-winner, in the final 12 minutes of a 2-1 win.
Because Hough was No. 2 in ESPN’s national poll and ended Green Hope’s unbeaten season – and its 25-game win streak – Green Hope should fall from its perch at No. 1 and Hough should win the mythical national championship.
And it has a sophomore to thank.
“Sarah Moon has grown so much this season,” junior midfielder Hannah Robinson said. “She’s always been fast as lightning, but now her foot skills and her soccer IQ and her minutes have grown so much. In the second half of the season, she’s just shown up big.”
But never bigger than Saturday.
Green Hope dominated the first half, keeping possession of the ball on Hough’s side of the field and sending several sure-looking shots at the Hough goal that flew just wide or just high. Robinson admitted she was worried.
“They’re a really possessive team,” she said. “We’re an athletic team, but I think we have a lot of young players, so there was some nervousness. To get to halftime (scoreless) got our confidence going and our nerves went down and our sophomores showed up in the second half.”
Moon got loose in the second half, tying the game by running past the defense for a score off a pass from Brandi Arey. Later, with less than five minutes to play, Courtney Carroll tapped a ball down the right side of the field. Moon was trailing three Green Hope defenders who were closer to the ball than she was.
It didn’t matter.
“There’s all these balls we have where you think no one in the world can get to it and Sarah Moon gets to it,” Robinson said. “That was one.”
Hough coach Smith, like Robinson, has been amazed by Moon’s athletic gifts.
“Her pace is amazing and she’s growing every day as a soccer player,” Smith said. “And she’s a great kid. I put her back in with 15 minutes left and told her, ‘You’ve got to get going non-stop’ – and she sure enough did.”
So Carroll tapped the ball down the right side, and Moon ran past the Green Hope defenders with jaw-dropping quickness.
Then she got possession. She unleashed the kick of her life – and the kick of her team’s season.
It was true.
“What did I see? I was really driven to get it in,” Moon said. “I knew we had to get into the lead and be able to win the state championship. I believed we deserved it.”