HOLLY SPRINGS — Rachel Noel and Mary Anne Savage, senior co-captains for the Holly Springs girls’ soccer team, definitely have seen the program grow during their time with the Golden Hawks.
Noel remembers her freshman year when the Golden Hawks struggled to post a winning record, but after two consecutive years reaching the postseason, Holly Springs has recorded the most wins in their history this season.
On Wednesday, Holly Springs defeated Northern Durham 6-1 in the first round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs, setting up a second-round matchup at perennial power Leesville Road on Friday with a chance to make history. The Golden Hawks (14-5-2), who also won a 2011 playoff contest against Jordan, have never reached the third round.
“Every year we’re getting more and more skilled,” said Noel, who scored against the Knights. “Tonight we definitely played quick and got the ball moved up the field, which scored the goals.”
Junior Kathryn Vollrath opened the scoring a minute into the game on a cross pass from sophomore Abby Sanders.
Dominique Babbitt made the score 2-0 on a header with an assist from Noel during the 16th minute. Then, in the 20th minute, the Golden Hawks added an own goal when a cross pass from senior Megan Poth caused a Knights error close to the goal.
“Megan Poth has incredible speed and she set up a lot of our goals because she’s so hard to contain,” said Holly Springs coach Brian Miller. “The whole team is a great bunch of girls to coach, and they play quality soccer.”
Noel added a goal 10 minutes before halftime, giving Holly Springs a 4-0 lead.
The youngest Golden Hawk got into the scoring column during the second half when freshman Sierra Raynor found the net before Vollrath added her second goal to put Holly Springs ahead 6-0.
Defensively, Holly Springs is anchored by a trio of seniors, Savage and Rachel Mitchum and then Jensen Brendel in goal. Brendel had few shots against her Wednesday because of the speed and sound play of Savage and Mitchum, who each stopped potential first-half breakaways by senior Carly Baker.
“We are all connected as one and we support and move as a group,” Savage said. “We defend and attack together as a team.”
Sophomore Nicole Crutchfield prevented the shutout when she scored on a penalty kick during the 67th minute. Northern Durham centerback Serenity Erick started in goal because of injuries to both Knights goalkeepers and finished with 17 saves.
“I’m proud of our girls and feel they adjusted well to our injuries, but we just weren’t able to move the ball quick enough tonight,” said Northern Durham coach Tyler Drayton, whose young team finished 13-5.