The Knightdale girls soccer team’s four-goal shutout of East Wake prompted a gloomy time for seven senior Warriors, who watched their career and team’s season come to an end Wednesday.
“I’m pretty bummed,” said East Wake’s Anna Kate Whitfield after the rivalry game. “That was my last time playing with these girls. So I’m obviously really emotional.”
Whitfield and fellow seniors were honored at halftime, already down 2-0, in what wound up a hampered Senior Night celebration. Blue and yellow balloons and streamers did nothing to stop Knightdale (10-8, 8-5 Greater Neuse River 4A) from pouring on two more goals in the second half.
The Knights felt little remorse breaking up East Wake’s bash.
“It’s our rival and it’s our last game,” said Knights senior Carly Mounts. “I wanted to come out and kill.”
It was Mounts who drew first blood, scoring the first goal 10 minutes into the game. She was also the one to land the deathblow, scoring the final goal of the game with 33:46 left in regulation.
Mounts’ scores bookended a pair of goals from sophomore Tori Leech, who believes the cross-town Knights fed off the energy of playing spoiler on East Wake’s home field.
“I think everybody was so excited because we were on their turf,” Leech said. “I guess it’s just that kind of motivation that had us going throughout the whole game.”
East Wake concluded the season 5-10-1 overall and 4-9-1 in the conference.
The last time these two teams met, on April 16, Leech provided the only goal of a tight defensive battle after minding the net for the first half. Knightdale assistant coach Nick Scanlon credited the decision to play Leech in the field for the entire rematch as the primary source of the ancillary offense.
“We knew this was a big game for us,” Scanlon said. “If we win we’re almost guaranteed playoffs, if we lose our season’s done.
“We’ve made the playoffs seven straight years, so we decided to go all out for goals. The girls knew that and they did a great job.”
East Wake head coach Crystal Espey and her Warriors paid little mind to last month’s loss to the Knights, choosing instead to focus on the Senior Night grudge match on their home turf. They spoke with confidence after the teams’ first meeting, warning the Knights that it would be a different game on a different field.
It was a different game, but the playing surface had little to do with the outcome. Scanlon said his team read the Warriors’ comments and then turned them into the lifeblood of every heated rivalry: bulletin board material.
“All the East Wake girls were talking about how they wanted to beat Knightdale,” Scanlon said. “(The Knightdale players) saw that and they didn’t want to lose that record – we haven’t lost to (East Wake) since our seniors’ freshman year – so they didn’t want to break that streak.”
On the other side of the field, Espey spoke in a more somber tone than she did last month.
“They played a great game,” Espey said of the Knights. “We just couldn’t keep up.”
For Knightdale, prospects of the playoffs appear promising. The team has its goals set on breaking a trend from recent postseasons.
“We want to get past the first round,” Scanlon said. “It’s always good to be in the playoffs, but the past few years we haven’t won our first playoff game, and we’re trying to break that streak.”