Two halves and four overtime periods were not enough to determine a winner between No. 26 seed Middle Creek and No. 30 seed Panther Creek in Saturday’s N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A girls soccer quarterfinals.
In the end, a 2-2 deadlock had to be broken by penalty kicks, which Middle Creek won 3-0 to advance past the Catamounts in a game that took over three hours to play due to a lightning delay.
Senior forward Ally Elliot and junior midfielder Kylie McElroy each converted their tries from the spot and a make by junior midfielder Maggie Banks sealed the victory for Middle Creek.
With the win, the Mustangs (12-5-6) will face No. 24 seed Athens Drive, another Southwest Wake Athletic Conference foe, on Tuesday with an NCHSAA championship game appearance on the line.
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Freshman fullback Abby Hugo took Panther Creek’s first penalty kick, but her effort went too high. Middle Creek junior goalkeeper Carolina Lauer was then able to save freshman striker Emily Moxley’s kick. Taking the Catamounts’ last shot of the shootout, junior midfielder Lindsay Haney’s strike hit off the left post.
“I feel like my heart’s going to explode,” Middle Creek coach Guy Coleman said after his team’s triumph. “My blood pressure is really high. It’s just been one of those crazy moments. We worked real hard, we went down early and we came out flat. But we battled back.”
The win was just Middle Creek’s second at home in 2016 and things didn’t start off well for the Mustangs.
Panther Creek (12-10-3) led 2-0 after the first 23 minutes thanks to two goals by Moxley in a 6-minute span.
But Coleman’s team dug in and turned to McElroy for help on offense. With only two minutes remaining in the first half, her header cut Middle Creek’s deficit in half.
The score helped generate some momentum for the Mustangs, which carried over into the second half. In the 50th minute, a deflected cross fell to McElory, who scored from point-blank range to tie the game.
Although Middle Creek’s start was less than ideal, McElroy, who now has nine goals, said things became easier as the game went on.
“We came out a little bit slow, but once we calmed down and just played our game we were able to come back,” McElroy said.
Looking for a solution to his squad’s inability to win at home, Coleman had the Mustangs ride around on the team bus before the game. That might have helped, but so did the stellar goalkeeping by Lauer, who her coach called the MVP of the game.
After giving up two early goals, Lauer settled and made several big-time saves for Middle Creek, including one in penalty kicks.
“She was the player of the game tonight, easily,” Coleman said. “Even though Kylie had two goals, I have to give player of the game to Caroline. The save in the penalty kicks was just incredible.”
Despite the Catamounts’ season ending in a tough way, Panther Creek coach David Grant said his team has nothing to be ashamed of.
“There’s no reason to hang our heads.I know they’re young ladies and they’re going to be upset at the fact that they lost and their season is over, but the message I told them was look at where we were at the beginning of the season,” Grant said.
“We had some struggles and some injuries and you look at the second half of the season and where we finished up today and that’s a big accomplishment.”