Cary Christian’s girls soccer team hasn’t been in this position much in the last decade, but chances look good the Knights won’t be fighting for their playoff lives in upcoming seasons.
But after a difficult 3-2 loss to Kinston’s Arendell Parrott Academy on Wednesday in what was its fifth game in seven days, Cary Christian may have to win the rest of its matches to qualify for the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 2A playoffs.
That’s why Knights coach Brian Twidt had his players chant “Never again!” after Parrott Academy scored two goals in the final 10 minutes – including the game-winner with 34 seconds remaining.
“We just kind of gave the game away at the end,” senior Janey Self said. “We definitely need to remember that next time. When we’re ahead, we need to not slow down at all.”
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Cary Christian (2-3-2, 2-2 Eastern Plains Independent Conference) is a state power among independent schools, winning the state title in 2008 and reaching the final six years in a row until a semifinal loss in 2012 and a round-of-eight defeat last season.
“I don’t like that trend, from six finals to final four to final eight,” Twidt said. “We were fortunate to have so many years of strong players, and now, other programs are growing a lot.”
This season, Twidt had to replace four key players, and he used as many as five freshmen Wednesday.
“That’s been big shoes to fill,” said one of those freshmen, midfielder MaKenna Lagaly. “It’s been hard adjusting to fill in the holes, but we really just need to finish in the second half. We’re starting to really click, but we’ve got to put the pedal to the medal in the second half.”
The potential was evident by a brilliant play from Lagaly, who scored a goal. Freshman forward Rachel Wiggins scored the other goal on an assist from Lagaly.
Late in the first half, Parrott coach Shivar Pearson yelled, “Someone find No. 10!” hoping his players would mark Lagaly. But moments later, she drilled in a shot from the top of the box.
“I hear it almost every game,” Lagaly said. “It’s something you’ve got to roll with. A lot of coaches sometimes do it to get in your head a little it, but you get used to it. You can’t let other players intimidate you, and you have to focus on your team, focus on your game.”
Lagaly, who played varsity last season as an eighth-grader, has been asked to do a lot this season – perhaps too much, Twidt said.
“As the team starts letting down, she has to fill too many roles, from taking goal kicks to being the midfielder trying to go on attack,” Twidt said. “It’s frustrating, especially for her, to want it that bad and work that hard, and come up with a loss. She’s definitely all over the field and holds that field together for us.”
And without sacrificing this season, Lagaly and the Knights know the future is bright, with solid classes of seventh- and eighth-graders on the way.
“They really have so much potential,” Lagaly said. “Next year, we lose four seniors, and it’s going to be hard to fill in those shoes, but I feel like we’re really going to build and get some momentum in coming years. We should have a few strong seasons ahead of us.”