A championship mentality, like the one Panther Creek and Green Hope’s girls soccer teams are known for, emphasizes that the next game is always the most important one. But sometimes the hype is hard to avoid, particularly when the two play against one another.
On Monday night, the Catamounts drowned out the noise of a rivalry game, took Green Hope’s best shot and came away with a 3-1 Southwest Wake Athletic Conference victory. The schools have combined to win the last three 4A East regional titles.
“What’s good about this team is we’re very goal-oriented but we know how we want to go about it,” PC coach David Grant said. “We’re very driven. We know what we want but we know what it takes to get there.”
Green Hope (5-3, 5-2) fell behind early but showed some mental toughness of their own with their second-half play.
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“Nobody likes to lose, but I think we learned a lot today about this team,” Falcons coach Stacy Lamb said. “In the last 10 days we have really come together.”
Turning point: When a team has allowed just one goal all season as Panther Creek (8-0, 6-0) had entering the contest, sometimes the turning point is just getting the all-important first goal. Justine James went on a run and Emma Socha gave her the perfectly-time pass to spring James alone behind the defense.
In a 1-v-1 situation, James dribbled around a sprawling goalkeeper before tapping in the empty-net goal for a 1-0 lead in the 15th minute.
“Emma kicked it over and it went over the back line,” James said. “I noticed the goalie was out so I chipped it around her and I was in (on goal).”
Best quote: “I wish we played them again tomorrow. I think it would be a lot different,” Lamb said. “The biggest lesson we can learn today, and it’s a valuable one, is you need to make teams you’re playing earn the respect you give them.”
Three who mattered
Audrey Cooke, Green Hope: The midfielder was always around the action, getting forward in attack and also hurrying back to help her team defend in some critical spots.
Celeste Barnard, Panther Creek: The goalkeeper had to make some split-second decisions as Green Hope swarmed in the second half.
“We want her to get tested. It’s only going to make her better,” Grant said. “We’ve had a few games where she hasn’t had much work.”
Justine James, Panther Creek: James scored twice. Her second goal in the 63rd minute after a through ball got her behind the defense where she again found the keeper on the ground and the goal empty.
“We’re really finding each other’s strengths,” James said.
Behind the numbers
2: When Green Hope scored in the 48th minute, it was only the second goal that Panther Creek had conceded this year. The Falcons’ Taylor Camarata sent in a cross that took a slight deflection but landed in front of Grace Wagner, who tapped in the point-blank goal.
“We do a very good job of, if we do get scored on, and thankfully it’s been very few so far, of recovering,” Grant said. “I think it was in the next 5-10 minutes we put another one in. We do a very good job of not being rattled by that.”
7: Emma Socha leads the Catamounts with seven goals this year. In the 25th minute, she beat one Green Hope defender and side-stepped another before calmly burying a 25-foot strike into the near top corner.
“I was taking it down the side and I realized there was a lot of space in the middle so I cut that and then another defender happened to be coming out so I went around her,” Socha said. “I saw my opportunity to shoot and I hit the upper 90, which was nice.”
No. 1: At the halfway point in the SWAC schedule, Panther Creek is still unbeaten while Green Hope sits in second, tied with Fuquay-Varina.