NCHSAA 4A girls’ soccer championship: Green Hope 2, Hough 0

Green Hope girls’ soccer wins NCHSAA 4A state championship, finds redemption against Hough

mblake@newsobserver.comMay 25, 2013 

— There isn’t a bragging right that Green Hope girls’ soccer team can’t claim. The undefeated and untied No. 1 team in the nation has the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A state championship that it’s wanted for the last two seasons, and coveted since last year’s runner-up finish.

In a rematch of last year’s title game, redemption belonged to Green Hope, 2-0 winners against defending champ Cornelius Hough.

It took more than 80 minutes of Saturday soccer to get to this point.

From aspirations to bring home the first title in the program’s history when they first played for the Falcons as sophomores, to last year’s heartbreak, to this year’s 28-game mission that included three one-goal wins in its last six contests – Green Hope didn’t so much as claim the championship as it matured into champions.

“Going through the playoffs, there was obviously a reason we went through Leesville and Millbrook and came through on top. I knew there was something – like fate wanted us to win this one,” senior forward Alexis Shaffer said.

The Falcons (28-0-0), now 53-1 over the last two seasons, dominated the three main categories: shots (12-5) corners (10-2) and possession.

Maybe it was because the team had been tested this last month, or maybe it was because it was glad to get another crack at Hough (21-3) from last year, but the Falcons were razor-sharp from the start.

“This is by far ... composure-wise the best game we’ve had. Something about today, we were just so relaxed and we just knew how to get it done,” senior co-captain Alexis Degler said. “I think in our hearts we had absolutely no doubt we were going to win.”

From kickoff, Green Hope tried to build its plays through the middle and began to earn corner kicks. In the midfield, it dispossessed the Hough players regularly. The back line stayed organized against the Huskies’ speedy forwards.

“We were knowing we couldn’t play long because then they would just kick it down our throats to their fast forwards,” senior co-captain Sydney Curtis said. “Settling down and keeping the play calm was a really big factor in helping us win.”

Callie McClain, who has played forward and midfield, was at centerback to negate Hough’s speed. Central defensive midfielder Addie Jeffs was there to dispossess as well.

“The players were just resolved,” Green Hope coach Bobby Peterson said. “As awesome as it was around the field, those center mids absolutely took the game for us.”

Hough tried to double-mark Shaffer, who recently awarded her second straight N.C. Gatorade High School Player of the Year award. It opened up other players, and Green Hope had seven shots to Hough’s two.

Hough goalkeeper Marnie Merrit kept the Huskies in it with nine saves, but the Falcons went on top as Shaffer broke down a Hough defender in the box and slotted in a 33rd-minute goal. The goal came a minute after Hough’s first and only two shots on the half were denied on a breakaway.

“I turned with my outside foot and pushed the ball forward and dug as hard as I could and then looked up and took a shot,” Shaffer said. “Alexis Degler was in front of it and she dummied it and it went in.”

In the second half, Hough evened the game out, winning more 50-50 balls and applying pressure as the one-goal deficit dictated their pace.

Senior goalkeeper Lisa Armstrong claimed four saves in the second half to preserve the shutout. Outside back Amanda Lasater had a dispossession at the top of the box to stop another Hough attack.

As the midway point of the second half drew near, Shaffer – later named the game’s MVP – chose to drop back and defend.

As Green Hope began to try to eat clock, junior Kenley Sigmon received the ball near the box and beat two Hough defenders, turning them before tapping in the game’s second goal. With only 6:34 left on the clock, Sigmon’s goal all but won the game.

“Once I beat a defender I just kept going. And Marnie is a really good keeper so I knew I had to slot it,” Sigmon said. “We were trying to get to the corners and keep it there but why not? I was right there.”

Seven of the Green Hope seniors, 53-1 over the past two seasons, will be playing collegiate soccer next year. They scored 149 goals and allowed just 15 this season. After the boys’ team has won the last two 4A titles, the girls’ have added their own title to the school’s proud soccer history.

The last NCHSAA school to sweep the boys’ and girls’ titles in the same season was Cardinal Gibbons in 2001-02.

“I would have so regretted not playing high school soccer because you’re not only playing for your team, you’re playing for your school,” Degler said. “And to give your school something to be proud of or leave your mark on your school is just an unreal feeling.”

Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps

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