Panther Creek and Sanderson girls’ soccer teams both came into Friday night on hot streaks, and one had to break.
The Catamounts’ experience proved to be too much for the young Spartans, as they earned a trip to the third round of the 4A playoffs with a 2-0 win.
Despite recording 10 shots on goal in the first half, it wasn’t until the 38th minute that Panther Creek scored as Hollie Cartwright launched a shot – or was it a cross? – from the edge of the box that found its way into the top left corner, barely beating the outstretched fingertips of Sanderson goalkeeper Libby Stancil.
“The girl starting coming over, and she backed off and I looked up and told myself ‘I’m going to try this,’ and it worked,” Cartwright said. “I was so hype. It was a shot, I swear.”
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The Catamounts came into the second half the same way they ended the first half, offensively firing on all cylinders. Just seven minutes into the half, Justine James wove through the Sanderson defense before finding Meredith Hamby, whose one-timer slotted into the top right corner to double the Catamounts’ lead to 2-0.
The scoreline stayed stagnant for the match’s final 32 minutes in large part to the play of Sanderson’s Stancil, who recorded 13 saves on the night.
“She’s had a great season all around,” Sanderson coach Todd Worley said. “There’s nothing she could have done on any of those goals.”
Sanderson finished the season on a 10-1-3 run despite not having a single senior on the team and underclassman scoring 34 of their 47 goals during the year.
“This team is really gritty. We make up for our youth by playing hard,” Worley said. “This was a better opponent than we’ve played all year. We saw that we’re young, but we can play with any team.”
After recording a 9-0 mercy rule win on Wednesday against Pembroke’s Purnell Swett, Panther Creek coach David Grant stressed the importance of discipline moving into a stretch of tougher opponents.
“This group is fortunate enough that they’re very well-disciplined and they put that aside quickly,” Grant said.
Panther Creek’s defensive dominance continued as they recorded their 14th clean sheet of the season.
“I always know what to expect from my four defenders who played tonight,” Grant said.
Panther Creek will have to wait another day before finding out who they face in the third round of the 4A state playoffs, as East Chapel Hill and Leesville Road square off Saturday.
“We’re going to go scout them and learn,” Grant said. “We don’t change a whole lot defensively and offensively, which is one of the reasons why we’re as good as we are is because we prepare very well.”