Ravenscroft senior Johnny McNeill headed in three first-half goals in Tuesday’s 3-1 win over North Raleigh Christian Academy.
It was the TISAC opener for both teams.
The Ravens’ first three corner kicks of the match, served by senior Connor Gridley, led to McNeill’s hat trick.
But when you’re 6-foot-4, winning headers is a breeze, McNeill said after the victory that kept the Ravens unbeaten.
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“Honestly, when you’re as big as me, winning headers is pretty easy and pretty fun, and it’s something that I pride myself on,” McNeill said. “We absolutely do work on those in practice.”
His first goal came inside the eighth minute and he wrapped up scoring for the Ravens (7-0-1, 1-0 TISAC) with about 10 minutes left in the first half.
The Knights (2-3-1, 0-1) reeled off five shots on goal in the first half and finished with nine. Ravenscroft managed 12 shots, led by freshman Emmanuel Petrov with five.
North Raleigh Christian sophomore Brian Himmel broke up the shutout inside the 78th minute on a 15-yard shot that sped right past the goalkeeper.
“I think we made it an exciting game in the second half, but it was about 40 minutes too late,” Knight coach Ed Pinon said. “It’s tough when you're down 3-0 and trying to come back. I would say Ravenscroft’s the team to beat in our conference. They’re undefeated right now, and they definitely beat us tonight, hands down.”
After the victory, the Ravens have allowed just six goals in the year while forcing 28.
Coach Alix Charles said he’s pleased with the win but doesn’t want to act on it prematurely.
“Our conference is very strong this year; it’s wide open,” he said. “It was a great win for us, but we’re going to try to take it one day at a time and see where that leads us in terms of the conference.
“Our goal is to try to win it, and if we can, that would be great.”
The first corner kick leading to a goal. The Ravens missed a scoring opportunity before they put one on the board. When Gridley placed the that first kick in a sea of players but managed to find McNeill, it was clear how effective the corners would become.
“Some of the guys were putting the ball on the money,” Charles said. “They were really putting them right where they needed to be and of course Johnny’s there making the best of it.”
Three who mattered
Johnny McNeill, Ravenscoft: He headed in three goals to help keep the Ravens undefeated.
Connor Gridley, Ravenscroft: He served the corner kicks that led the McNeill’s hat trick.
Connor Dalstad, North Raleigh Christian: He took on Ravenscroft’s speedy midfielder Kelvin Jones early in the first half and played with him.
By the numbers
21: Minutes it took for McNeill to post his hat trick
3: Ravenscroft corner kicks that led to goals
14: Corner kicks from both teams combined (eight for NRCA and six for Ravenscroft)
5: Saves by NRCA freshman goalkeeper Seth Wolins
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan