CARY — In the playoffs, opportunities to score don’t come often, and they weren’t in large supply for Green Hope during Saturday night’s fourth round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs against visiting New Hanover.
But the Falcons, the two-time reigning 4A boys’ soccer champs, were prepared to take advantage of their few chances and move on to familiar territory with a 2-0 win.
The Falcons are heading to the 4A East final for the sixth time in seven years.
“You never know, against extremely well-organized teams, you may only get three or four chances,” first-year Green Hope coach Michael Hoy said.
Green Hope (22-2), the East’s No.1 seed, put a few shots on goal that were saved during the game’s opening minutes.
But No.4 seed New Hanover (21-3-2), coached by T.J. Rennie and assisted by father John – the longtime former Duke coach – began to outplay the Falcons.
Opportunity came for Green Hope in the 18th minute on a throw-in from MacLean Holbrook that flicked off the head of Owen Jeffs, then deflected off a New Hanover player to an open Yuka Koyama.
Koyama – who had just subbed into the game – was standing at the corner of the 6-yard box and slotted in the easy goal.
“I kind of got lucky, but a goal is a goal,” Koyama said. “It gave us some breathing room.”
Green Hope began to play more fluidly for the rest of the half and it led to its second goal.
Holbrook stepped between a short headed-down pass between a New Hanover defender and the goalkeeper in the 39th minute. Holbrook had an open net after stepping outside the keeper.
“I saw a ball played over and I knew I had a chance because the bounce looked low,” Holbrook said. “I don’t think (the defender) knew I was running as hard as I was.”
New Hanover applied most of the pressure during the second half, but the Falcons, used to toughing out wins during the past month, weathered all of the Wildcats’ attempts to hold onto the shutout.
“They were a really good team. We just had to grind them out,” Koyama said.
Green Hope will host Sanderson in the 4A East final at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Green Hope won the regular-season match 3-2 on Aug.29.
“It’ll be a classic,” Holbrook said. “It’ll be physical and I expect a really good game out of them.”
Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps