After last year's title loss, Green Hope girls' soccer focuses on redemption

mblake@newsobserver.comMarch 19, 2013 

Apex's Madeline Uenking, left, and Green Hope's Alexis Shaffer fight for the ball in Cary on March 6, 2013. Green Hope won 8-0.

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— The sting of last year’s loss in the girls’ soccer state championship stayed with Green Hope’s returning players throughout the summer.

From their memories of that 2-1 loss to Cornelius Hough – a title game that featured the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked teams in the country – it’s understandable why they came back for redemption this year.

Alexis Shaffer got an adrenaline rush after her 58th minute PK. But when Hough, which had tied the game in the 69th minute, scored a go-ahead in the 76th, goalkeeper Lisa Armstrong got a sinking feeling.

“It’s over. It’s done. There’s 26 more games until we get here again,” Armstrong said.

The frantic final minutes have stuck with Sydney Curtis. For the first time all year, the undefeated, untied and No. 1 Falcons were forced to panic.

Alexis Degler sums up how difficult the postgame ceremonies were. The runner-up team receives medals first, while the winners applaud and wait for theirs.

“I wanted to be clapping first,” Degler said. “That’s what sticks out the most – watching them receive something I wanted so bad.”.

Last year’s Green Hope team had several of the state’s top juniors – seven of them have since signed to play in college – which is a rarity when the trend is for the best players to focus on their club team during the spring.

Teammates kept in touch during the summer, making sure the others were willing to start from scratch and try again in 2013.

“We knew we couldn’t do it without everybody, so we were always talking to make sure,” Curtis said.

Most came back. The only returner who elected not to play is future North Carolina walk-on Maya Worth.

“Some of the girls were in situations where they could graduate early, but I think a lot of them spread their classes out so they could be a part of it,” said Green Hope coach Bobby Peterson. “If we win it last year, maybe they don’t do that.”

If the Falcons had held on for the program’s first state title, Shaffer’s not sure how many would have still had the desire to play this season.

“(A championship) was our goal from the beginning. So last year, if we had accomplished it, I don’t know ... if people would have thought about their colleges and getting ready for that instead of coming back as a whole,” Shaffer said.

Peterson hasn’t brought up last year’s loss to his players. He knows he doesn’t have to.

The focus has been razor-sharp. Through seven games, Green Hope outscored its competition 44-1.

“You always need to keep that in the back of your mind because it’s always going to be a motivational push,” Degler said.

One other memory stuck with Armstrong. She remembers the seniors who cried that day.

Now-graduated captain Natalie Chalker choked back tears and talked about this year’s group.

“They can do it,” Chalker said. “They can do it next year.”

With seven games down, there are 21 more to prove her right.

Blake: 919-460-2606; On Twitter: @JMBpreps

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