Wednesday night was a simple case of the wrong night in the wrong location and the wrong opponent for Green Hope’s boys soccer team.
The Falcons fell to New Hanover 3-0 in the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs at Legion Stadium, halting an unbeaten streak that dated back to early September.
New Hanover had plenty of reasons to play its best match of the season and the Wildcats did just that, limiting Green Hope to less than a handful of real scoring chances.
“If anybody has motivation to beat us, it’s New Hanover,” said Green Hope coach Chip Bunn.
The Wildcats had lost in each of the past two seasons to Green Hope in the playoffs and that fact wasn’t lost on them as they took the pitch at Jurgenson-Gabriel Field.
“We played about as well as we could possibly play,” said New Hanover coach Theodore Rennie said. “And playing against the team that’s knocked us out of the playoffs the past two years was huge to these guys...
“I could lie and say it didn’t mean anything (extra) to us, but it does.”
The Wildcats (20-6) will meet conference rival Laney in the fourth round, who defeated Holly Springs 2-0 Tuesday night on the other side of Wilmington from the Falcons-Wildcats’ battle.
New Hanover dominated play the first half but didn’t have anything to show for it on the scoreboard until just five minutes remained in the first half.
That’s when sophomore midfielder Brady Lademann scored off of a throw in in the 35th minute. Lademann collected the ball amid a crush of bodies at the edge of the goal box and sent a low shot past a sprawling Green Hope keeper Jack McAllister.
The Wildcats quickly went back on the offensive to start the second half. John Evans, right in front of the Falcons’ keeper McAllister, got his head on a great corner kick from teammate Ian Bennett with 31 minutes to play.
It was the first time any member of the Falcons’ squad had played a playoff match on the road.
“They limited our chances and got us frustrated,” Bunn said. “We never found our rhythm.
“We made some adjustments at the half, trying to play more direct and I thought it was working. We talked about trying to keep them from scoring on set pieces, but that’s where their first two goals came from.”
Green Hope had a trio of solid runs in the ensuing six minutes but New Hanover keeper and senior captain Max Johnson was in the perfect spot each time. He made a leaping save on one long Falcons’ blast, then smothered a cross across the goal box from the left corner before a Green Hope attacker could get to the ball moments later.
With 23 to play, New Hanover’s Franco Fernandez broke out after Bennett cleared the ball to midfield from near the Green Hope penalty area. Fernandez touched the ball around the last Green Hope defender, then drilled a high 30-yard shot past a leaping McAllister and into the top left corner of the net for a three-goal advantage.
The loss ended the highly productive runs of a 15-member senior class for the Falcons. Green Hope has posted 79 wins during their four years at the school.
“These seniors have been through a lot of transition,” Bunn said. “They’ve had four coaches in four years and they haven’t let it affect them on the field. We’ve had the success we’ve had because of the soccer talent they have and how well they work together.”