GREENSBORO — The swansong of the state’s top soccer players Tuesday night in the N.C. Coaches Association East-West soccer all-star games were Triangle-dominated in numbers and in impact.
While the girls’ game ended in a 2-2 tie, the East won the boys’ game 2-1. But perhaps the Triangle was the biggest winner on the night.
In the girls’ game, eight of the 11 starters, the head coach and one of the two goal scorers were from Wake County.
The boys’ soccer all-star game had a more complete Triangle feel. Nine starters hailed from either Wake, Johnston, Durham and Franklin County – two of them scored goals and perhaps the most unlikely of those was named MVP.
Miller’s MVP saves East boys
Franklinton’s Jared Miller didn’t play in a state championship game or get recruited to a Division I school, but the 5-foot-9, 220-pound goalkeeper saved the East’s 10th win in the series with one big stop after another.
“Coming from a small little 2A school ... you kinda do come in with a chip on your shoulder. Not making all-state was crushing to me,” said Miller, who will play at Mount Olive next year. “I’m not a typical goalkeeper. I’m a little shorter and a little bigger, but it shows that if you’re dedicated and you work and you work and you work, you can do anything.”
Miller played the first 20 minutes of the first half and the entire second half.
He was tested, saving a penalty in the second half followed by two other quick saves. He also snuffed a breakaway attempt with seven minutes left to preserve the win.
“I love the pressure – that’s why I became a goalkeeper in the first place,” Miller said.
A goal by Jason Andrejchak (Concord Robinson) put the West up 1-0 in the 25th minute, but the East equalized when Sanderson’s Connor Francis and Heritage’s Gage Novaria worked a give-and-go in the box.
The nifty play between former Cap Eight 4A Conference foes ended with Novaria’s 39th-minute goal and Francis’ assist.
“I saw Gage coming out from right back and he did the nice little ‘Maradona’ move that he did and it sort of opened him up. I saw the defender behind me pinch up to get him,” said Francis. “He played me, then right back to him, and he put it away.”
The East went up 2-1 after Owen Ryan of Durham School of the Arts gathered the ball off a corner scrum and fired in a shot.
“Usually I’m more of an assist man but I got on the end of a pretty good cross by Josh Kennedy,” Ryan said. “He jumped up really high and blocked the goalie’s view.”
Green Hope teammates Tyler Hawley and Josh Kennedy got the start, as did Sanderson’s Fred Woodward and Cardinal Gibbons’ Kye Rhode. Rhode had a volley go off the post in the first half.
Also starting was Corinth Holders’ Melecio Rubio-Villagram, the first player in his school’s history to suit up for a NCCA all-star game.
“I feel really proud to play in these games,” Rubio-Villagram said. “I think I played very well. I left everything on the field.
Carrboro’s Thar Thwai came off the bench in midfield.
The East leads the all-time boys’ series 10-8-4.
East and West girls tie
In the girls’ game, the West scored first on a penalty taken by Jackie Nieradka (East Forsyth) in the 20th minute. West teammate Rachel Cox (Greensboro Grimsley) drew the PK after she was knocked down by Sophia Carter (Wilson Fike).
A Raleigh connection tied it up for the East in the 38th minute.
Caroline Brown (Broughton) took a free kick from just inside midfield that sailed deep into the box where Christina Gibbons (Cardinal Gibbons) redirected it off the header inside the far post.
“When I take a free kick, which isn’t often, I try to hit it towards the back post because that’s what I’ve always been taught,” said Brown, a Villanova recruit. “And thankfully, Christina has great ups – like a basketball superstar – and she hit it perfectly.”
Gibbons, a 5-5 Duke recruit, was terrorizing the West defense for much of the night.
Normally a player such as Gibbons, who was named a first-team all-American by EliteSoccerReport.com, is advised to not play by a college coach.
“My (college) coach was all for it, just getting some playing in before preseason starts. He said just to enjoy it and finish out your high school career strong,” Gibbons said.
The score was 1-1 at halftime, but the West created chances until Cox scored on an assist from Nieradka in the 71st minute.
The East answered with an unmarked Nancy Kirk (Fayetteville Jack Britt) taking a few extra touches into the box before slotting in the 77th minute score.
Midfield starters included Olivia Costello (Sanderson), Rachel Hallman (Millbrook) and Leigh McGill (Cardinal Gibbons). Jackie Stroud (Millbrook) started at center back.
Cary’s Anna Witte and Heritage’s Erin Tanhauser split most of the corner kick duties.
Tanhauser and Novaria were the first players from Heritage to play in any NCCA all-star game, while Rachel Hammond was the first from Raleigh Charter.
Hanna Socha (Panther Creek) came off the bench as a center midfielder.
It was a final game for all players, but East girls’ soccer coach Deran Coe was also in his last high school game. The new Wake County Public Schools System athletic director has been at his post with WCPSS since March.
“It was a great honor,” Coe said.
The East leads the girls’ series 9-6-7 after a third consecutive tie in the series.
Cox, who will play at N.C. State next year, was named the game’s MVP.
Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps