CARY — The undefeated Green Hope girls’ soccer team asserted its dominance over Sanderson within the first nine seconds of a second-round 4A state playoff game Thursday, and held it all way through to a 6-1 victory, its 24th win.
Green Hope will play the winner of Cary vs. Millbrook in the third round.
Senior Callie McClain set the tone for the Falcons, firing the first shot of the game past Sanderson goalie Kiley Coster.
“It felt really good to rally the team and come out strong. We had our heads high, and we were excited to keep going. It really gave us momentum,” McClain said.
Green Hope’s positive vibe wavered three minutes later when leading scorer Alexis Shaffer took a hard hit from the Sanderson defense and fell to the ground clutching her knee.
Shaffer was carried off the field by her teammates, as senior captain Alexis Degler rallied her team back together.
“It was a loss for us, definitely,” Degler said. “We didn’t have to change the way we played because we still have speed, but I told the team that we have one more thing to play for now.
“Anytime you lose a team member like that in a game as intense as it was, it just gives you even more of a push and even more motivation because you knew she wanted to be on that field, so you need to play for her.”
Green Hope wasted no time regaining momentum and McClain scored twice more in the first half. Degler, Maura McDonnell and Paige Trexler also scored goals to give the Falcons a 6-0 lead by halftime.
Sanderson started the second half re-energized and refused to be intimidated by Green Hope’s top national ranking.
“We don’t think about their No. 1 rank in the country,” Sanderson coach Todd Worley said. “Green Hope is a good team and they should have a good chance at the state championship, but as far as where they rank, that is all arbitrary.”
The strong Sanderson defensive line of Grayson Montgomery, Hannah Weisner and Yazmeen Mustafa stopped each Green Hope attack and held the Falcons scoreless in the second half.
With 21 minutes, 16 seconds to play, Sanderson freshman Anna Sheridan launched a long shot that soared over the head of Falcons goalkeeper Emily Hager, ruining Green Hope’s shutout.
“Our girls didn’t give up. We don’t do that. I’m proud of them, they have a lot of heart,” said Worley.