Providence High’s nationally ranked girls’ soccer team won the N.C. 4A championship Saturday, beating Apex Middle Creek 2-1. And the game had a finish that will likely spark debate for weeks.
With 10 seconds left, Middle Creek was frantically trying to set up a corner kick to tie the game. As the public address announcer counted down the time – “10, nine, eight” – Middle Creek touched the ball. It curled toward a scrum of players from both teams near Providence’s goal. With three seconds left, Middle Creek’s Kylie McElroy kicked the ball into the net. It appeared the game would go to overtime. But there was a whistle.
The officials ruled Middle Creek offside. Providence’s players, who lost in the state finals to Cary Panther Creek a year ago, made a mad dash to hug each other in the center of the field. Middle Creek, a No. 26 seed that lost three straight games to end the regular season, was left to wonder what if.
“I couldn’t see it to be honest,” Providence coach Nathan Williams said of the play. “But the referee crew did a really good job today. If they got it right, they got it right. It happened so quickly.”
Three who mattered
Molly McGarry, Providence: Championship MVP scored the game’s opening goal with 31 minutes to play in the second half off a curling corner kick from Mia Thillet.
Jen Simons, Providence: Capped off solid game with Providence’s second goal with 7 minutes, 36 seconds left that appeared to seal the championship – just moments after a Providence player got tangled with a Middle Creek player near the Panthers’ goal. Middle Creek coach Guy Coleman thought a foul should’ve been called. Moments later, his team was down two.
Kylie McElroy, Middle Creek: 12 seconds after Simons’ goal, McElroy got the ball and drove in for a score that ignited a large Middle Creek crowd and gave the Mustangs life.
▪ Middle Creek (13-6-6) was making its first trip to the state final. Before this season, the Mustangs had never made it past the playoffs’ third round. A year ago, the Mustangs were 2-12 in conference play.
▪ Providence was the ninth straight Mecklenburg County team to reach the final. The Panthers won their second girls’ title, their first since 1997.
▪ N.C. High School Athletic Association assistant commissioner James Alverson reviewed the critical offsides call afterward and tweeted that the officials ruled currectly.
They said it
“That last play? I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know what to feel. One moment, I’m devastated and the next, I switched to exhilaration, and it’s amazing. Oh my God, it’s the best feeling in the world. It feels like we redeemed ourselves.” – Providence sophomore defender Mia Thillet, reacting to the offsides call and the emotion of winning the title after losing in the finals last year.
“It was just nerve racking. I called it offsides. I thought it would definitely be. It’s just crazy. I feel bad because there was so much energy for (Middle Creek) and to have it called back had to be upsetting.” – Providence’s Molly McGarry on the final play.
“Obviously, they’re blown calls by supposedly the best team of refs they’re supposed to have. How am I supposed to explain to my girls that they just lost a championship? They scored at the end and they were robbed of their (chance at a) championship by the referees. That’s not how any game is supposed to end. ... How can I not be disappointed? ... There was no offsides. Check the film. I’m sure they’ll run through it a million times, but that doesn’t give my girls a championship or even a shot at overtime.” – Middle Creek coach Guy Coleman