Its one of soccers biggest risks, and Green Hope is willing to take it.
The Falcons, the No. 1 girls soccer team in the nation entering Saturdays 4A state championship, like to push many players forward. Its one reason theyve scored 147 goals in their 27 wins without any losses or ties.
But sometimes the opposition breaks up the Falcons build-up and sends a high-sailing clearance kick long and high above Green Hopes last and out-of-position line of defense.
The threat of the counterattack goal the Achilles heel of the Falcons that ended its last season in heartbreak and has threatened to do so twice in these playoffs is very real.
But Green Hope is 52-1-0 in the past two seasons. Its too late to change who it is now.
Were not going to change our style, coach Bobby Peterson said. However it is, if were going to win or were going to lose, its going to be going aggressive and its going to be going forward.
Green Hopes opponent on Saturday is Cornelius Hough, the team it lost to in last years state finals when Green Hope unbeaten, untied and No. 1 in the nation lost 2-1 on two late counterattack goals in the 68th and 76th minutes.
The speedy Sarah Moon scored both goals for the Huskies, which ended the year by taking Green Hopes spot as the nations top-ranked team.
Green Hope lost just one junior and three senior starters from that team.
One of last seasons now-graduated captains, Natalie Chalker, had words after last years loss that showed confidence that this day would return for her teammates: There are no regrets. Next year, I wont be a part of the team but Ill be here supporting them. They can do it. They can do it next year.
Many saw the state championship live. Others watched the Time Warner Cable on-demand replay of the game or read about it in the paper. Green Hope had dominated the game for almost 70 minutes and got burned twice.
And so some tried it this year.
In the third round, Green Hope gave up the first goal of overtime when Millbrook found a streaking Colleen Markey. Markey had no one but the keeper in front of her for 40 yards, and she chipped in the go-ahead goal with ease.
Green Hope came back to win 4-3 in sudden-death overtime.
In the fourth round, Green Hope again went down on a counterattack goal, this time a Leesville player finding Mary Kate Bowers, whose electric speed pushed her into a 1-v-1 with the keeper to score in the 48th to take a second-half lead.
Again, the Falcons (27-0) came back from one down to win, this time 3-2. Of the 15 goals its given up this year, seven have come in the playoffs.
The girls dont just hide from hit, were aware of it and thinking about it, Peterson said. After the last week, with the counterattacks we got were really a good thing. If we had gone through the playoffs without it, we wouldnt be as ready. Having it will certainly get us well-prepared for seeing that aspect in the back
Green Hope and Hough (21-2) will square off at 5 p.m. at the Dail Soccer Field at N.C. State University, the host of all four soccer championships.
The Falcons are led by two-time N.C. Gatorade Player of the Year Alexis Shaffer (38 goals, 25 assists) and classmate Alexis Degler (38 goals, 28 assists). Callie McClain is third with 18 goals, while Maura McDonnell has 26 assists.
Cardinal Gibbons (21-2-1) is making its fourth appearance in a state championship game. The Crusaders, playing in the 11 a.m. 3A title game against Hickory St. Stephens (21-3-2), won the 2A title in 2007 but lost in the 3A final in 2010 and 2011.
The Crusaders are led by Duke recruits Christina Gibbons, a senior, and junior Morgan Reid.
Raleigh Charter (20-1) will be going for its second state title in program history in the days final game, an 8 p.m. contest against Lake Norman Charter (18-3-3) for the 1A title.
The 2A game at 2 p.m. features three-time champ Swansboro (22-5-1) and title-game newcomer South Iredell (22-2).
Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps