No. 7 Sanderson’s Michael Barrell netted two goals, including the game winner, to lead the Spartans over visiting No. 11 Wilmington Laney 3-1, in the fourth round of the 4A NCHSAA men’s soccer playoffs.
“This means everything. I’ve played Sanderson soccer for so long. Finally to get us to the fifth round, we haven’t done that in so many years. It’s a good feeling to help my team get to it,” the senior Burrell said.
The chance to advance to the Regional finals looked to be up for grabs as both teams battled in an evenly matched second half dead-locked at 1-1.
Both teams had opportunities early on. Laney’s Trevor O’Hare had a shot on goal from the near post but was stopped by goalkeeper Walker Lozaw. Later, Sanderson’s Ryan Turner had a close range shot deflected off the bottom of the crossbar and skip out before it was cleared by Laney.
Then in the 65th minute, Barrell gathered a deflected shot in the center of the penalty box from Alex Struble. Barrell turned and fired and the ground ball beat the keeper to the near corner of the goal for the score.
“I thought if I could just get around it and swing, maybe I’d have a chance. Luckily it was perfect placed and the ball found the corner,” Barrell said.
Three minutes later, Sanderson’s Michael Clemmons followed up with a shot saved by the goal keeper Stephen Lapp but the ball spun free. The spinning ball also eluded an off-balance defender who made a swipe at it before it trickled across the goal line for the score. The goal gave Sanderson some breathing room at 3-1 with just over 12 minutes left in the game.
“Tonight was a really nice game. I thought in the second half we were a lot better than the first half. We put a lot of energy going forward,” Sanderson coach Todd Worley said.
Laney pressured toward the end but its one legitimate scoring chance was snuffed out on a diving save by Lozaw.
“(Laney’s) pressure was more one-on-one, and I felt we had numbers going forward. We got some good opportunities but didn’t score, but I thought our numbers versus their one-on-one in the end helped us win,” Worley said.
Sanderson got on the board first with Barrell’s first goal at the ninth minute. Barrell gather a deflected shot from Clemmons and drove it into the back of the net.
Laney responded at the 23rd minute when Brian Pinder slipped a defender and squeezed the ball between Lozaw and the post to tie the game 1-1.
Sanderson (22-6-1) had faced Laney earlier in the season, with the Spartans winning 2-1. This time around, Worley noted Laney (17-5-2) had some new players that added more speed and skill.
Now Sanderson will travel next week to face the winner of No. 1 seed Green Hope versus No. 4 seed New Hanover.