KERNERSVILLE — If North Mecklenburg's girls soccer team is peaking, it certainly has chosen the right time.
Playing on the road in a N.C. High School Athletic Association 4-A state semifinal match on Wednesday night, the Vikings routed an East Forsyth team that was ranked No. 3 in the state and had given up only seven goals all season.
North Mecklenburg (20-3-2) scored three times in the first 12 minutes en route to a 5-0 win that propelled the Vikings into the state championship. They will meet Wilmington Hoggard, which beat Leesville Road in the semifinals, at 7 p.m. on Saturday night at N.C. State.
"We have played well in the first 10 minutes of every playoff game," North Mecklenburg coach Neil Roberts said. "We have been getting some good chances, but we haven't been finishing them. But we started finishing them last week against Lake Norman [in a 5-1 quarterfinal win], and we were finishing them tonight.
"They haven't been easy chances, but they've been good chances, and we were on around the frame."
East Forsyth, which didn't give up more than one goal in any game until Wednesday night, finished 23-3-1.
The rout began early, at the 3-minute mark, when Katherine Rusk pounced on a rebound in front of the East Forsyth goal and banged the ball past goaltender Megan Roberson. The play started with a long shot by Morgan Byrne that defender Carson Williams tried to head away. Instead of going over the goal, the ball hit the crossbar and bounced directly to Rusk. Roberson had no chance.
North Mecklenburg salted the victory away eight minutes later with two goals in the span of a minute. First, Byrne scored on a nifty give-and-go with Rusk. Then, Byrne made a long, perfect cross from the left side that Alison Stearnes ran onto and blasted into the net for the first of her three goals.
Stearnes scored again at the 20-minute mark on a rocket from the right side, then scored 10 minutes into the second half, taking a pass from Hannah Robinson.
Goaltender Emily Rusk turned away three good chances by East Forsyth in the first half.
East Forsyth coach Chad Lorenz called North Mecklenburg "relentless" and said the Vikings' fast start against his team was no surprise.
"They had that kind of start against Lake Norman. They finish at an incredible rate," he said. "Twenty-five minutes into the game, they had four chances and had scored three goals, and we had three chances and had scored none.
"We didn't put any pressure on them, and we were disorganized on defense. And they beat us in one-on-one situations all night."