Panther Creek continued to roll through the girls’ 4A soccer playoffs Friday night, this time turning back PAC-6 member East Chapel Hill 4-0.
The 22-0-1 Catamounts turn their attention toward an Eastern finals appearance next week, probably Tuesday, against the winner of Saturday’s contest in Wilmington between Sanderson and Hoggard. Panther Creek will be home for that game also.
It wasn’t just the fast, athletic offense up front that gave the Wildcats matchup problems; the Catamounts’ defense was equally dominating.
“We were playing well coming in and we picked up where we left off Wednesday. That’s kind of what we’ve been doing,” Panther Creek coach David Grant said. “Collectively we’ve gotten better and once again we were able to get everyone off the bench into the game.”
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It took seven minutes for Panther Creek to break through with a goal by junior Courtney Cash, an ECU recruit, who scored from about 20 yards after taking a pass from senior Mazzy Sullivan.
Fewer than four minutes later junior Justine James scored on a breakaway. After racing past a defender, she hit a shot that put her team up 2-0 after 10 minutes of play. James also scored her team’s fourth goal 10 minutes into the second half.
“Courtney really steps up and she’s been our engine and Justine is scoring more lately. She uses her speed and the midfielders are getting the ball to her,” Grant said.
“For sure they’re the best we’ve played this year,” said East Chapel Hill coach Austin Collins, whose team is 14-5. “We made two mistakes in the first half. Sometimes teams can’t take advantage of that, but they punish you. And their three defenders are impossible to get past. That defense and skill up front is tough to beat. Our keeper, freshman Kayla Kern, made several outstanding saves in the first half. She kept us in the game.”
The Catamounts‘ other goal came from senior striker Alexi Pagano in the third minute of the second half.
The three defenders for Panther Creek were freshman Meredith Hamby, junior Rachael Everhart, and junior Reylene Alberti.
“With those three we have the luxury of playing three back there, instead of four,” Grant said. “They are all skilled individually, but also work together so well.”