Holly Springs’ longest playoff run in school history came to a close with a 2-0 loss Wednesday at Laney’s Holliday Stadium in Wilmington.
The host Buccaneers (21-3-2) scored an early goal in both halves and kept averting the danger of the long Golden Hawks throw-ins to hold on for the win.
No. 17 Holly Springs (12-7-3) came the closest to scoring a goal when one of Gabe Latigue’s throw-ins was headed off the crossbar in the 71st minute.
It was bittersweet for the Hawks’ coach Brian Miller. When he took over the program three years ago, it was coming off a 2-18-1 season
“To see in three years, where a class of seniors can bring a team from one win to the third round of the playoffs – we can be disappointed tonight, but if you look at the big picture, it’s amazing where Holly Springs soccer has gone,” Miller said.
Miller said the Laney midfield was so strong that the Hawks tried to play more balls over the top.
“We had a lot of set pieces. If those set pieces go in like we have in the past, we win that game,” Miller said. “They finished their chances, and we just didn’t find the back of the box.”
Holly Springs goalkeepers Cason Brinson (first half) and Josh Howard (second) kept the Hawks in the game with several key saves, but two Hawks giveaways in the back put them in tough spots, allowing Laney to sneak in the game’s only two goals.
Both were low shots that just eked inside the near post.
Laney’s Carson Popper netted a goal in the 20th minute as his shot skipped and curled away from Brinson to the near post.
In the 49th minute, Laney doubled its lead as Wesley Nelson’s shot curled to the near post, hitting Howard’s mitts and the woodwork before rolling over the goal mouth. Trevor O’Hare had the assist.
“It’s just one of those nights where it didn’t fall to our foot the way we wanted it to,” Miller said. “That’s soccer.”