BENSON — It may have been the high water mark for West Johnston girls’ soccer.
Rachel Thomas and Mallory Barton each had a three-goal nights, while Heather Bittle had a pair of goals and four assists, leading the Wildcats to a 9-0 rout of visiting Fayetteville Pine Forest in the first round of the state playoffs.
Wednesday’s game was stopped in the 51st minute because of goal differential.
The result boosted the Greater Neuse River champion Wildcats (18-0-1) into a second-round home game Saturday night at 7 against Mideastern runner-up Wilmington New Hanover (12-5-2), which had topped visiting GNRC No. 4 seed Clayton 4-0 on Tuesday night.
Pine Forest (8-8-4) had been a wild-card entry into the field after finishing fifth in the Mid-South Conference.
The Wildcats outshot the Trojans 22-1, with Pine Forest goalie Ashley May making 13 saves.
Best Quote: West coach Ken Sweat, also the boys’ coach who was girls junior varsity mentor last season, took the reins just before tryouts when Danielle Cloud resigned.
“We did a better job adjusting to time and space in the second half tonight,” Sweat said. “That made the goals come a little bit quicker. Both teams were playing well and under control with the wet conditions. We just did a great job of moving the ball and attacking.
“We’ve had some close, competitive games. I think our confidence is right where it needs to be. We’re not cocky or nonchalant.”
By the Numbers: Madison Covey added a goal and two assists for the Wildcats.
Thomas has 21 goals on the season while Bittle has 18 with 19 assists. Barton has 15 goals and Covey 10 goals and 15 assists.
“I don’t remember having (an individual) game like that,” Bittle said. “I don’t even know what to say.
“We started out passing really well, talking and communicating, and it got better as the game went on.”
What worked: West’s offense, obviously.
Pine Forest got off its only shot of the game on a rush in the first couple of minutes, but the Wildcats easily carried play for the rest of the rout-shortened affair.
It was 4-0 at halftime before the Wildcats scored the last five goals in less than 11 minutes.
“I was a little surprised by the way it went,” said Thomas, who had two of the game’s first three goals and will play at New England College in the fall. “The first playoff game has always been tough for us.
“We were definitely here to play tonight, and we just clicked really well in finishing the goals. Being undefeated is really exciting.”
West has outscored the opposition 101-10 this season.
Feeling the Impact: It was the Wildcats’ 13th straight victory since the 3-3 tie with Western Alamance on March 15.
For the first time in school history, the Wildcats have an unbeaten record that includes a state playoff win.
West would also host a third-round game in any scenario, and if it keeps winning would not be on the road until the state semifinals.