Garinger High staked its claim to a measure of respect and perhaps No. 1 in the Sweet 16 soccer rankings.
The Wildcats, ranked second in the poll, beat No. 3 Providence 5-1 in the Kicks for the Cure benefit at Charlotte Latin behind four goals by senior striker Tresor Mbuyu. Garinger (3-0) wanted to make an emphatic point that it belongs among the state’s elite.
“We wanted to play all these teams last year but nobody would schedule us,” Garinger coach David Garrett said. “We hadn’t earned any respect, so we scheduled a hard schedule this year. We got five teams in the top 10 in a two-week time period, so we want to play the best.”
Providence, which opened the season with a win at No. 1 Hough, struck early on Matthew Nozedar’s goal for a 1-0 advantage and controlled the pace for most of the first half. Garinger snatched the momentum just before halftime when Mbuyu scored off Joseph Akpome’s pass to force a deadlock at intermission.
“The first half, I had a game plan to try to stop them,” Providence coach Tim Long said. “No. 10 (Mbuyu) can’t have time and space, ever. He scored four goals and only took about six shots. We allowed him to have that time and space and he does what he does – finish.”
The Wildcats owned the second half, starting with Akpome’s tally off Christian Ortiz’s assist in the 47th minute and three more Mbuyu goals, including a penalty kick in the 67th for the hat trick. He capped the outburst with an unassisted left-footed blast to the near post in the 73rd minute.
“Mbuyu is the best player in the state of North Carolina,” Garrett said. “There’s no doubt about it. He should’ve been all-American last year. Hopefully, if he stays healthy, he’ll show North Carolina an incredible once in a lifetime player.”
After dictating the pace in the first half and allowing Garinger two shots, Providence struggled to maintain it in the second. The Wildcats unleashed its attack and outran Panthers defenders to create scoring chances.
“We knew what we wanted to do coming out of the second half,” Garrett said. “It was a slow, sluggish first half and we made adjustments and communicated what we wanted to accomplish and they made the changes. It was beautiful to watch.”
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