Elizabeth Pittman said she had been waiting a long time for this one.
Michaela Wycoff scored on a rocket from the top of the box in the 63rd minute Tuesday night, giving Garner a 1-0 girls’ soccer victory over West Johnston and first place in the Greater Neuse River 4A.
The win improved the Trojans to 7-5-1 overall and 7-1-1 in GNRC action, while West dropped to 14-1-2 and 7-1-1. With five games left in the season, Garner holds the tiebreaker, as the teams drew 1-1 in a rain-shortened match March 12 in Garner.
“We were focused, and we did a good job moving the ball around,” Garner coach Joe Dennis said. “We worked a lot on that last week while they were on spring break, and it showed out there. We had a ton of chances where we didn’t score, unfortunately, but we capitalized on one, and that was all we needed tonight.
“Without the way Elizabeth played, we would have definitely lost that game. In my book, she’s the conference player of the year. She’s why we’re at the top of the conference right now.”
Pittman, who handled live balls in the box 20 times as the Wildcats peppered the Garner goal, has been the Trojans’ starting goalie since her freshman year and is now 1-6-1 against West.
“That’s the hardest I’ve had to work in a shutout,” said Pittman, who earned her fifth shutout of the season. “They were making runs, but we played like we know we can, and everything seemed to come together.
“We know they’re a good team, but I think it helped that we tied them the first time. I think we had a better mindset against them this time.”
Pittman and the Trojans are in rare company, as the Wildcats had been unbeaten in 34 regular-season games (31-0-3) over the past two seasons, 22 of them (21-0-1) in the GNRC.
Garner finished with only eight shots on goal despite earning six corner kicks to none for West in the first half.
“We obviously didn’t play as well as we could,” said West’s first-year coach Reid Byrd. “We had different moments in the game where we played good, but we just couldn’t put a string of those together.
“We had a lot of shots on goal but just couldn’t get anything in. Their goalie had a great game. Ours (Hannah Stephenson) did too. They got one goal, and we didn’t have any. That’s a team loss.”
After more than an hour of physical play on a warm, cloudy evening, Wycoff scored her team-leading ninth goal and 26th point of the season on an assist from fellow junior Ana Rojas on the left sideline.
“I knew we needed one,” Wycoff said. “Ana gave me a great pass from the sideline. The last time we played them, we just couldn’t finish. This time we finished once, and it was enough to win.”
West senior tri-captain Alaina Custer said the Wildcats will just have to deal with one tough night and move on.
“Garner played a really good game and beat us to a lot of 50-50 balls,” Custer said. “You could tell they really wanted it. Their keeper saved every shot we took, and we just couldn’t put it in.”