Making its first appearance in the NCHSAA 3A soccer playoffs in five years, the Smithfield-Selma girl’s soccer team fell to Big East champion, Wilson Fike, for the third time this season Tuesday night.
The Demons, looking to make their way back to the eastern regional final for a second year in a row, eventually wore down the Spartans, pulling away for a 10-1 victory to advance to the second round.
Fike’s Anne Taylor tallied a pair of goals and an assist and Katie Stokely fired home two long-range goals in the second half to improve the Demons to 21-1 on the season.
The lopsided loss in the opening round of the playoffs was a tough pill for the Spartans (8-9-1) to swallow, but, upon further inspection, it’s easy to see why the future looks bright for the program.
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Smithfield-Selma’s Natalie Sabiston did something that no other opposing player had done to Fike in over two months: score a goal.
The freshman knocked in her 24th goal of the season from the penalty spot late in the second half after being taken down in the box.
For first-year coach Stacy Holland, Sabiston’s goal was just another example of what she had witnessed her team do all season long.
“Anything I asked them to do, they did and didn’t ask any questions,” Holland said. “I think they went in with our game plan for today and executed it fairly well.
“Our goal was to get a point on the board when we got to halftime, and we did that.”
Asides from an own goal the Demons conceded in the championship game of the Big East conference against rival Hunt, the last goals scored against Fike occurred in its only loss of the season, a 2-1 defeat to Swansboro on March 7th.
After the victory over the Spartans, the Demons have outscored their opponents, 137-6 this season.
Another reason for optimism for Smithfield-Selma is its talented underclassmen.
The Spartans will see seniors Erika Callejas, Morgan Eatmon and Soran Garcia depart but should return everyone else including leading goal scorers Sabiston and Megan Benjamin.
Sophomore goalkeeper Caroline Carter was busy in goal all night long and provided her team with 15 huge saves, with a handful being of the extraordinary variety.
After Anne Taylor put the hosts up 2-0 midway through the opening half of play, Mary Taylor and Hailee Cockrell found the back of the net in the final 11 minutes of the first half to put Fike up 4-0 at the break.
The Demons continued to press for the remainder of the game, and despite a determined defensive effort, Smithfield-Selma couldn’t prevent Fike’s offense from adding to its goal total in the second half.
For Holland, having her team double its win total from the season before and finishing this season on a strong note is more than enough reason for optimism.
“We ended the season beating Cleveland, which was a huge win for us,” said Holland. “I think we got better every day at practice and every game. There’s nothing bad I can say about the season or the team.
“I’m excited about next year as well. We finished strong and we have almost all of them coming back.”