For the second straight year, the Panther Creek girls’ soccer team is headed back to the NCHSAA 4A championship game after defeating Wilmington Hoggard 2-1 in the East Regional final on Tuesday.
One year removed from a 1-0 overtime loss to Hough in the 2014 title game, the Catamounts are more than happy to be back in the championship game and hope to turn this year’s appearance into a title.
“Winning the East Regional is a tremendous accomplishment, and we’re so happy we have won it, but like we’ve said from Day 1, it’s up on the chart, it’s to win a state title,” Panther Creek coach David Grant said.
The Catamounts (19-0-2) will face Providence at N.C. State’s Dail Soccer Field on Saturday.
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“It feels so good to have another chance, but it’s also super nerve-wracking because there’s a lot of pressure on us, because we don’t want to go through (a loss) again,” Panther Creek senior fullback Rachael Everhart said.
But before Panther Creek could even think about winning a state title, it had to get past Hoggard again, which was anything but easy.
Panther Creek trailed for much of the first half then found itself in a 1-1 game before Everhart’s header found the back of the net in the 69th minute on senior midfielder Briana Velasquez’s corner kick.
The goal proved to be the game-winner, and it was an easy one to score because of Velasquez’s quality service, Everhart said.
“She hit a perfect ball right to my head and I ran in and finished it,” Everhart said. “There was no one in my way. It was perfect.”
The opportunity was the result of a miscue by Hoggard junior goalkeeper Hannah Wagner, who fumbled away an easy ball out of bounds.
The Catamounts dominated most of the second halfbut found themselves in an unfamiliar situation early.
Eighteen minutes into the game, Hoggard took a 1-0 lead on a penalty kick by senior midfielder McKenna Sayres.
The goal marked the first time Panther Creek had trailed this season.
However, the Catamounts showed some resiliency, tying the score in the 40th minute on a goal by sophomore midfielder Lindsay Haney off a free kick.
Panther Creek would carry that momentum into the second half as it battled hard to secure its second straight championship game appearance.
“To be down 1-0 and come back to win 2-1 against a very good team in Hoggard, it says a lot about the character of your team,” Grant said.