Cardinal Gibbons continued its playoff trend of scoring early and shocked defending state champion White Oak 4-1 Tuesday evening to capture the East regional championship and advance to the 3A state championship game.
The Crusaders (21-2-1) were scheduled to face Hickory St. Stephens Saturday at N.C. State.
Christina Gibbons scored in the opening minutes of the two previous playoff games, but this time it was junior midfielder Morgan Reid who drilled in a direct kick in the third minute for the 1-0 lead.
From that point, the Crusaders’ offense continued to keep the pressure on the Vikings defense.
Ten minutes later junior forward Calleigh West scored close in off an assist by Christina Gibbons.
“I’m happy, pleased. That’s how we expect that we will play,” Gibbons coach Michelle Miller said. “We try to score early – I don’t think that’s any secret – so it was good to see the ball go in the net early. They have an amazing keeper, so to get that first one and know we could score was important for us.”
The Crusaders added two more first half goals, both by leading scorer Christina Gibbons.
In the 18th minute she took a pass from Angela Hiltbrunner, turned to the goal, drove and knocked in a shot. Eight minutes later she scored from about 15 yards out with an assist by Kathleen Hickey, and the Crusaders led 4-0 at halftime.
“We had problems with some matchups in the first half, but Gibbons has a lot of pieces, a lot of weapons,” White Oak coach Buddy Carroll said. “(Christina Gibbons) was step above most players we’re played against. We didn’t match up well with her, especially early, and that caused problems.”
“I thought I was going to have an advantage because I was able to turn on her a couple of times,” Christina Gibbons said of her defender. “I felt like I had a little bit of an advantage.”
The Crusaders also had an advantage of controlling the ball.
“We are a possession-oriented team and that is our strategy, our goal, and have the other team chase us,” Miller said. “And when we can do that we’re tough to beat. We kept pressure on their defense. And we were able to limit them to long-distance shots tonight.
“We have a number of players who can score. Teams like to key on Christina, but the great thing about this team is they’re unselfish. We have other kids who can score, and Lauren Magdefrau had a fantastic game. She’s huge for us off the bench, quick, dangerous and just lifts us up every time she comes into the game.”
White Oak defeated Cardinal Gibbons in the Eastern finals last year on the way to the school’s seventh state title. The Vikings finished 20-5 this year.
“We lost 90 percent of our scoring from last year, but we played well to get this far,” Carroll said. “I’m only losing one senior, so we were a young team and will have a lot back next year.”
Christina Gibbons thinks her team is ready for Saturday’s championship game
“Everyone’s been playing well, most definitely,” Christina Gibbons said. “I feel like everyone’s excited, everyone’s pumped up, especially after this game. So hopefully we can get it done.”