After 110 minutes of soccer and a round of penalty kicks, the South Mecklenburg Sabres advanced to the NCHSAA 4A Western elite eight soccer playoffs with a 2-2 (5-3) win Monday night against the Myers Park Mustangs at Myers Park.
The Sabres (15-6-2, 9-4-1) will play at Charlotte Catholic Wednesday in the third round of the state playoffs.
The Sabres took 1-0 and 2-1 leads, but Myers Park fought back each time. Marco Garcia had a goal in regulation and the winning penalty-kick goal for South Meck, while Fernando Garcia had the other goal in regulation for the Sabres. Taylor Bass and Juan Guerrero scored for the Mustangs.
Tied at 2 after regulation and four overtime sessions, South Meck scored on all five penalty-kick opportunities while Myers Park missed one, sending the Sabres to the next round.
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“I worked with Coach Lynch here for years and I learned that when it comes to playoff time you have to work on penalty kicks every single practice,” said South Meck coach Eric White.
With the Sabres leading 1-0, Myers Park tied the match at 1-1 in the 59th minute as Bass headed in a shot from close range.
South Meck grabbed the lead right back 10 minutes later as Fernando’s Garcia’s shot seemed to be an easy stop for Myers Park’s goalie. But the ball went through his legs to the surprise of everyone and it appeared the Sabres’ 2-1 advantage might hold up.
But the Mustangs had one last gasp and tied the match at 2 with three minutes remaining in regulation. A Myers Park corner kick bounced 20 yards out to Guerrero, whose blast found nothing but net behind South Meck goaltender Harish Ataya.
Myers Park (9-11, 7-5) played the 2014 season without three of its top veteran players who were academically ineligible. Despite that handicap Mustangs coach Bucky McCarley was proud of what his team accomplished.
“This season has been a bumpy road,” McCarley said. “What I try to tell our kids here at Myers Park is that every year is our year. The next guys stepped up and we overcame adversity all season long.”
South Meck plays a big game against Charlotte Catholic Wednesday, where the Cougars are a big favorite to win the state championship.
“They’re a very difficult out for us and we’re honored that we get to go play them,” White said. “We’re going to do our best.”