Myers Park's nationally-ranked girls soccer team is going to the state championship game. For the first time ever.
The No. 1 seed in the N.C. 4A Western Region, the Mustangs edged No. 3 seed Southern Pines Pinecrest 2-1 Tuesday at Myers Park. The Mustangs allowed their fifth goal of the season but kept their unbeaten season alive.
The Mustangs had been to four Western Regional finals prior to Tuesday, and never won. Myers Park heads to Raleigh Saturday for the 4A state championship at NC State and will battle Fuquay-Varina at 7:00 p.m.
Junior forward Ariana Maibodi had both goals for Myers Park, with the game-winner coming in the 57th minute. Mustangs goalkeeper Abby Britt (Ferrum College commit) made three saves while facing six shots to get the win.
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“Amanda Stines headed it over and I kind of anticipated it,” said Maibodi on how the game-winning goal transpired. “I had my shot and I took it just outside the 18 (yard box) and that was my goal….get it to the bottom left.”
The first half was largely a defensive struggle. The first 20 minutes was played evenly. The Mustangs had the better of play in the next ten minutes, with the Patriots controlling the final ten minutes. Pinecrest had two good scoring opportunities in the final three minutes of the half, both by forward Natalie Sabiston. But Britt came up with two big stops to keep the game scoreless.
Myers Park Coach Bucky McCarley saw some things he thought his team could take advantage of in the second half.
“I told them there were three elements of the game that we could take advantage of if we played well," he said. "At some point in time it just takes guts, it takes hard work, and it takes a willingness to win a ball. Sometimes it’s just will.”
In the 47th minute, the Mustangs Oliva Hollidge played a perfect through-ball to Maibodi who got behind the Pinecrest defense and flicked the ball past Patriots goalkeeper Carley Modlin to break the scoreless deadlock for a 1-0 lead. Maibodi struck again nine minutes later, working her way to the right side of the Patriots box before launching a 20-yard shot that found its way into the back of the Pinecrest goal.
The Patriots answered just two minutes after Maibodi’s second goal, Sabiston blasted a 30-yard shot that landed just under the crossbar and into the Mustangs net to cut the Myers Parks advantage to 2-1.
Pinecrest had never advanced to a Western Regional Final, and despite the loss took some comfort in making history too.
“It definitely helps making the final and we made history at our school,” said senior defender Kelly Clark. “Just being part of that is something I can tell my kids in the future.”
A subdued Patriots coach Corey Rice was asked what went wrong for Pinecrest.
“I thought we dominated," he said. "I thought there were opportunities where balls bounced the right way; and Myers Park did a good job of taking advantage of those opportunities, and they finished well. I don’t think it matters who possesses the ball and how a team looks on the field, it’s the scoreboard. I was proud of the way our girls possessed the ball, tried to move it around, and play a pretty style of soccer. But sometimes that doesn’t matter.”
THREE WHO MATTERED:
Ariana Maibodi (Myers Park) had both goals for the Mustangs to lead Myers Park and had a game-high six shots on goal.
Senior defender Kelly Clark (Pinecrest) Patriots defender was a stopper on defense, thwarting numerous Myers Park chances.
Senior Captain Olivia Hollidge (Myers Park) assisted on the first Myers Park goal and won important battles in the midfield for much of the game.
Five minutes into the game Mustangs freshman forward Caileen Almeida went down with what looked like a serious injury. She did not return and will be evaluated Wednesday.
Myers Park Bucky McCarley is in his 15th season as head soccer coach of the Mustangs.
The only other time Myers Park met Pinecrest was in 2006 in the state playoffs, where the Mustangs prevailed
THEY SAID IT
: “She is special. She’s going to go unrecognized. She’s not going to get player of the week, but she’s a Myers Park senior captain. As far as I’m concerned, my guess is other being a state champion that’s the title she’s most happy with.” Mustangs coach Bucky McCarley on Olivia Hollidge.
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