East Chapel Hill let their large lead evaporate. On the other side of the field, Cardinal Gibbons had orchestrated a thrilling comeback.
Then Sydney Holman, an East Chapel Hill midfielder, changed the momentum of the game – and the Wildcats’ season.
Holman set up and scored the only goal for the Wildcats in the second half. That proved to be just enough for East Chapel Hill in its 10-9 dramatic win in the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association girls’ lacrosse playoffs.
The Wildcats (15-3) will play Green Hope (18-0) in the semifinals next week.
“In these games, you can never expect too much,” Holman said. “We can never let down on ourselves because you know the scoring is really tight.”
Holman’s defensive play late in the game led to her goal. Holman stole the ball from Cardinal Gibbons near midfield. As she came close to the net, Holman said she thought about the previous game the teams played three weeks ago.
In that game, she could have tied the score late by making the correct play. But Holman threw an errant pass. Cardinal Gibbons went on to win 14-13.
This time around, Holman didn’t pass.
“I felt it was the perfect time,” she said. “My teammates helped a lot by creating space for me.”
She stayed calm and scored the game-winning goal with 1:05 left.
“She is a smart player,” East Chapel Hill coach Michelle Michaels said. “As a coach, I don’t have to worry about her taking a good shot.”
Early on, the Wildcats cruised to a comfortable 9-3 lead at halftime.
But Cardinal Gibbons scored quickly to start the second half. From there, East Chapel Hill (11-5) tightened its game.
The Wildcats allowed the Crusaders to score six consecutive goals in the second half to tie the game. With 9:32 left, the Wildcats were forced to play defense for much of the remaining time while the Crusaders kept attacking the net.
Holman, who led the Wildcats with six goals, was suddenly being outplayed by Shelby Scanlin, a midfielder for Cardinal Gibbons.
Scanlin led the Crusaders with six goals.
“Shelby is great at seeing the field,” Cardinal Gibbons coach Prudence Scott said. “She works well because she has great teammates. I’m proud of them because they gave me their best in the second half.”
In the final minutes, it appeared Scanlin was going to give the Crusaders the lead. Scanlin beat her defender and took a shot at the net.
This time tough, East Chapel Hill goalkeeper Riley Johnson was in position to make the save.
“All of her shots are totally different and they come from everywhere,” Johnson said of Scanlin. “I think once I figured out how hard she was shooting, I started working hard to make the saves.”
Johnson’s play gave the Wildcats a chance to win. Michaels said she was proud of Johnson’s effort.
“It’s taken her a long time to get mental toughness,” Michaels said of Johnson. “She knows how to not get into her head. She didn’t let things bother her.”