New Hanover punched a ticket to its second consecutive 4A boys soccer East final, traveling to Raleigh and defeating No. 3 Cardinal Gibbons 2-1 largely due to a career night from Wildcats goalkeeper Roman Lewis, who finished with 10 saves.
“This game I had to work the most, but this team had a mentality all year that we fight through everything,” Lewis said. “We have some tenacity, and we stick with it all the way through.”
New Hanover traveled to crosstown rival Laney on Tuesday.
“It’ll be a world’s different game playing an in-town rival,” New Hanover coach T.J. Rennie said. “We’re just thrilled to be here, a 23-seed going on to the fifth round.”
Neither Gibbons (18-3-1) nor New Hanover (20-7-1) had given up a goal in the postseason, a trend that broke for first for the Crusaders in the 30th minute. Moss Lewis capitalized on the Wildcats second corner kick of the night, powering the loose ball into the top of the net.
Lewis’ cool composure in goal kept the Crusaders – who had scored 10 goals in their first three postseason matches – out of the net in the first half, amassing five saves.
It wasn’t until the 65th minute that New Hannover’s clean sheet streak ended when Sam Milliken launched the left-footed strike over the outstretched fingertips of Lewis, who had nine saves at that point in the match.
“Our guys wanted it and they kept fighting,” Gibbons coach Tim Healy said. “We finally got that goal … unfortunately we could only put one away.”
New Hanover struck right back, taking advantage of another set piece opportunity in the 70th minute when Shaffer Lisle poked in a loose ball to regain the lead.
“(Gibbons) is so good, we had to figure at some point they were going to break through and score,” Rennie said. “We talked about finding a way to win, whether that be 1-1 going to overtime or if we have to find the second goal to win.”
With the clock on its season ticking away, Gibbons elected to pull its keeper and send 11 field players on the pitch in a last ditch effort to find an equalizer. In the 78th minute, Milliken nearly found it, but the officials waved off the close-range goal for offsides.
Advancing to the eastern semifinals was a worthy accomplishment in the eyes of Healy, as the Crusaders capped off their first season of 4A play after moving up from 3A, where they won a state title the year before.
“Our first year in 4A has been a success,” Healy said. “Right now we’re going to go lick our wounds, wish we had played better, hit one more ball better, but they’re going to come out next year a little more determined.”