After over a half an hour of sloppy play, No. 18-seeded Heritage picked up its intensity and overpowered No. 15 East Chapel Hill for a 2-0 Husky win Tuesday night in the first round of the N.C. High School 4A girls soccer state tournament.
The Huskies dominated possession early, but repeatedly came up empty in the attacking third.
In the 14th minute, Heritage freshman Hayley Boyles found some room down the right flank. Her cross floated into the box and found the head of Julianne Rodgers, but the senior pushed the ball just wide of the near post.
The Wildcats (11-10-2) finally found some momentum midway through the first half, as an East Chapel Hill free kick fell to junior Caelan Demuth in the center of the box, but her shot was subsequently blocked by a Husky defender.
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“We were relentless. I don't think we gave East Chapel Hill a lot of good opportunities on goal …” said Heritage Coach Scott Sloan. “For the most part we did pretty good controlling the field.”
The Huskies finally broke through in the 33rd minute. After receiving a cross, sophomore Kayla Cook knocked the ball to freshman Alcenia Purnell, who buried the ball into the bottom right corner to give Heritage a 1-0 advantage.
Heritage carried the momentum from its first goal through the rest of the first half and into the beginning of the second.
In the 47th minute, sophomore Michaella Arteta raced down the right side of the field, crossed the ball into the box and found the foot of Rodgers, who cut in front of her defender and converted to push the lead to 2-0.
“We were communicating a lot,” said freshman Fain Buete. “And everything just kind of fell together in the second half.”
The Huskies were able to hang on for the final 33 minutes, pushing their road record to 7-0-1, something Sloan chalked up to the youth of his team.
“I don't think our girls realize that we're not supposed to be playing this well, which is a really good thing. They just believe in themselves.”
With its fifth win in six games, Heritage (12-6-2) moves onto the NCHSAA second round, where a date with state powerhouse and eastern No. 2-seed Cardinal Gibbons (19-1) could lay waiting.
But no matter who they’re facing, the Huskies are going to continue to play with the same intensity that got them this far.
“We work hard for each other, and that's our main thing as a team,” Rodgers said. We’re just going to keep playing the same way we have been.”