For the second time this season, Green Hope and Sanderson played a defensive-minded girls soccer match on Friday. But unlike March’s scoreless tie, there had to be a winner this time around.
Grace Densmore’s shot nine minutes into the first 10-minute overtime period proved to be the game-winner as Sanderson won 1-0 in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs.
After 88 scoreless minutes were played, Densmore decided to go for goal from beyond the 18-yard box and her shot zoomed past Green Hope goalkeeper Lilly Dunn and into the upper left corner of the net to give the Spartans the lead.
With no defenders in sight and with a clean look at goal, Densmore said she felt confident enough to take the shot. As the ball moved through the air, all the sophomore thought about was the times she’s hit the woodwork this season. Luckily for Densmore, her shot was on frame when the Spartans needed a goal more than ever.
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“All that was going through my mind was to not hit the crossbar, because every game this season I’ve hit the crossbar,” Densmore said. “So, I was wide open and I was like ‘Why not shoot?”
With the lead in hand, Sanderson (15-6-3) successfully held off a Green Hope (16-2-3) comeback attempt in the second overtime period by clearing the ball time after time to secure the win.
“Beating Green Hope is a big deal for us because they’re such a powerhouse,” Sanderson coach Todd Worley said. “They had a chance to win the state championship, I believe.”
The Spartans, winners of five of their last six matches, will face Panther Creek in the third round next week.
During regulation, both Sanderson and Green Hope possessed the ball quite a bit in each other’s final third, but the Falcons had the bulk of the scoring chances.
In the second half, Green Hope’s Grace Wagner had several quality opportunities to score, perhaps none better than one in the 66th minute when she received a through ball from Izzy Brown and fired away from within the penalty area, but her effort went wide left.
The two teams played a scoreless first half, but Green Hope nearly took the lead in the 25th minute when Erika Lee’s strike from far out hit off the crossbar.
Green Hope coach Stacy Lamb said her players did a good job of creating scoring chances, but just couldn’t get one to go in.
“The bottom line is we had more chances to score than they did,” Lamb said. “We were more dangerous than they were, but they capitalized on the one chance they had. And that’s kind of how it goes. If you don’t finish chances it can come back to hurt you.”
Worley applauded his squad for its defensive play, but said it was expected at the same time.
“We’re always like that,” he said. “It’s our strength.”
Like Friday’s contest, Sanderson’s next match will also be a rematch as the Spartans tied Panther Creek 2-2 in March.