RALEIGH — It’s hard to lose when you control as much of the possession and scoring chances as the Leesville Road girls’ soccer team did Friday night. The Pride dominated for long stretches against Holly Springs, defeating the Golden Hawks 3-0 in the second round of the 4A state playoffs.
It was a performance that harkened back to the days that Leesville was considered a state powerhouse – like last year.
“To some people it feels like we’re having a really down year. I’ll take 17-4(-1),” Leesville coach Paul Dinkenor said. “We’re still rolling. We’ve got some kids who have played right down to the final whistle of a state championship. Our opponents are not interested in that, but it does give you a bit of defensive toughness.”
Trying to knock this team’s reputation as a state contender is dangerous. Leesville (17-4-1) is still ranked among the state’s top 4A teams and just wrapped up their 14th shutout.
And none of those shutouts came against a better opponent than Holly Springs (14-6-2).
“They’ve mostly been against lower teams,” Leesville’s Mackenzie Dipper said.
In the early minutes of Friday’s contest, both teams tested each other’s back lines by springing into counterattack opportunities.
But in the 29th minute, Leesville’s McKenna Crenshaw rifled a shot that bounced off the keeper’s mitts and into the net.
With just minutes before halftime, Dipper curled in a 35-yard wonder goal. Dipper’s shot bended into the upper left corner.
“Right when I hit with my left foot, it felt really good. I saw it going in right away,” Dipper said.
The Pride made it difficult for Holly Springs to get anything started in the second half. It won 50-50 balls and headers and immediately started linking up its attack.
The Hawks finally threatened with 25 minutes to go, but a few Dominique Babbitt shots went just high or wide.
“They attacked us pretty well. We couldn’t get out of the defending third without connecting passes,” Holly Springs coach Brian Miller said. “It’s tough to come back on a good team when you’re down.”
Dipper scored with just more than a minute left to send the Pride into the next round. Leesville will be at Jordan, likely Tuesday.
Dinkenor also have credit to Ashley Kendrot and Madison Huffman for helping control the game.
Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps