This season’s home-field advantage didn’t mean much for two of the Mecklenburg’s county’s top girls’ high school soccer programs. The Charlotte Catholic Cougars went to the visitor’s turf Friday night and shut out Providence 2-0 to avenge a 2-1 home loss in overtime to the Panthers three weeks ago.
The loss was the Panthers first of the season (17-1-1) after winning 13 straight, while the Cougars won their 18th of the season against just one loss and one tie. The records between the SoMeck 8 4A rivals are razor thin, and Friday’s victory kept Catholic alive for the conference title.
With each team winning on the other’s field, Catholic coach Gary Hoilett was asked what happened to the home-field advantage between the two powerhouses. “There is no real home-field advantage here,” Hoilett said. “Providence is a really, really good team so let’s get that out of the way. When we play them I’ve got to have every player function in a material manner.
“We’ve got to be sure we’re working very hard at it; and we have to be sure we’re taking care of the ball, and use it in the right manner and get some productivity from it which I thought we did tonight.”
The game started out great for Catholic when Cougars’ senior standout Emily Nelson scored just three minutes into the contest. Nelson found herself alone at the top of the box and alone in front of the Providence goalkeeper, who wasn’t sure if she should come out to challenge or stay back. She ended up coming out halfway, and Nelson alertly lobbed the ball in over her head for a 1-0 Cougars’ lead.
“It definitely boosts your confidence and helps you settle down and play because you have the advantage,” said Nelson about getting the lead so early. “You just want to try and keep the ball and it definitely helps to get up that early.”
Starting Panthers’ goalkeeper Lizzy Wilson had to come out of the game after getting a yellow card in the 59th minute. Backup Lizah Pistorio came in and immediately made a sparkling save on Catholic’s Alina Limpert, whose shot was headed in just under the crossbar. But Pistorio leaped and tipped the ball just over the crossbar at the last second to save a goal.
However, three minutes later in the 62nd minute the Cougars’ Malena Bruno scored from outside the box for a 2-0 Catholic advantage. Providence kept pounding away and nearly scored in the final minute to avoid a shutout, but Catholic keeper Abbey Stapleton just got to the post in time to keep a shot out. Stapleton finished with six saves to earn the shutout.
Quote: “It was definitely intense there for a little bit and of course I have to give credit to my defense. They did a good job of getting the ball out of there at key points. It’s just about staying engaged the whole time and not slipping up.” Catholic goalie Abbey Stapleton on earning the shutout and the win.
Worth Mentioning: Providence was ranked No. 1 in the entire nation in the latest USA Today high school girls’ soccer poll.
Records: Charlotte Catholic (18-1-1, 11-1-1), Providence (17-1-1, 11-1-0)
What’s Next: Providence will travel to Olympic Tuesday night for a 6 p.m. start, while Catholic hosts Berry Monday night at 6 p.m.