Myers Park's girls soccer team will play for its first N.C. 4A state championship Saturday at N.C. State.
And coach Bucky McCarley knows exactly why the Mustangs have, finally, gotten this far.
"From the beginning," McCarley said, "this team knew exactly who they wanted to be, and they were willing to be taught and pushed and get the training to get there. It's really comforting to know that you're coaching a group of people who have that collective focus and not drama, selfish behavior or selfish play. Any coach wants that, but once you have it, you know automatically the sky's the limit."
McCarley has coached at Myers Park for 16 seasons and developed one of the state's elite programs. Before beating Southern Pines Pinecrest 2-1 in Tuesday's state semifinals, McCarley had led his team to within one win of the finals four times.
Four times he lost.
But this season, McCarley's team had that special focus and one special defense.
Despite allowing a goal Tuesday, the Mustangs have allowed just five all season, fewer than any other 4A team in North Carolina. Myers Park (21-0-1) can complete the first unbeaten season in school history by beating Fuquay-Varina (17-4-2) Saturday at 11 a.m.
Fuquay-Varina was a No. 4 seed when the playoffs began. The team has outscored opponents 48-27 — compared to 111-5 for Myers Park — but it's won four straight games, including an upset of nationally ranked Raleigh Leesville Road in Tuesday's semifinals.
McCarley said he knows winning the last game for the first time will be a tough task, but it's one he and his team are ready for.
"When we won (the semifinal), the first thing I wanted to say is 'This is unbelievable,'" McCarley said. "But then I said, 'No it's not.' It's totally believable because we're taking care of our business and we stayed focused. But I guess it's rewarding. It's exciting. ... No one is out here to go through cuts and fitness and training and not win.
"But we've got to decide that playing for the girl next to us is more important than winning. Winning can be fickle. We agreed from the beginning that our motivation is the girl next to us and not the outcome. We'll have that same attitude come Saturday."
▪ Three other Observer-area teams will play for state championships Saturday.
In the 3A finals, Concord Cox Mill (19-2-2) will face Chapel Hill at 8 p.m. Chapel Hill (18-1-1) has won 13 straight games and allowed two goals all season. The Chargers (19-2-2) have won 18 straight.
In 2A, Lake Norman Charter (22-0-1) will look to polish off an unbeaten season against Kill Devil Hills First Flight in a 2 p.m. championship. First Flight (24-2-1) has won 12 straight; Lake Norman Charter has won 21 in a row.
And in 1A, Monroe's Union Academy will play Franklin Academy at 5 p.m. Union Academy (24-1) has won 20 straight matches and outscored opponents 156-6 this season. Franklin (22-1-1) has outscored teams 130-10.
Saturday's N.C. High School Athletic Association girls soccer championship schedule
4A: Myers Park vs. Fuquay-Varina, 11 a.m.
3A: Concord Cox Mill vs. Chapel Hill, 8 p.m.
2A: First Flight vs. Lake Norman Charter, 2 p.m.
1A: Franklin Academy vs. Union Academy, 5 p.m.