The Panther Creek girls soccer team stayed atop the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference by holding on to an early lead against Fuquay-Varina and never looking back on Wednesday. The Catamounts won 2-0 with both goals coming in the first half.
Senior striker and UNC-Charlotte recruit Emma Socha didn’t wait long to put the Catamounts (5-0, 4-0) on the scoreboard, notching her fifth goal of the season in the match’s eighth minute.
“Hollie (Cartwright) was dribbling and I saw open space to make that run inside and I took that,” Socha said. “I saw the keeper was way out of her net and took a touch around her and took my opportunity.”
Cartwright, a junior midfielder, wasn’t done creating for her teammates, as she found senior striker Justine James in the 35th minute to double the Panther Creek lead. Cartwright squeezed the ball through a horde of Bengals (5-2, 2-2) to find James, who pounded the ball into the top of net on a short-range strike.
The game’s final 45 minutes yielded a few opportunities for both teams, but neither squads would break the 2-0 scoreline.
Despite the final outcome, Fuquay-Varina head coach Nick Acosta was proud the adjustments his team made for the rest of the game.
“We fell behind early to a good team, after that we were able to settle down” Acosta said. “We really limited them, they didn’t have many chances, they just took advantage of the ones they had.”
Fuquay-Varina matched Panther Creek with three shots on goal, and had five corner kick opportunities compared to just one for the Catamounts. The closest the Bengals came to scoring was in the 50th minute when Kristina Sedivy’s shot ricocheted off the left woodwork.
“The few chances we had, we didn’t finish off,” Acosta said. “We had one hit the post and the keeper saved a couple, they just took advantage of their chances better than we did.”
“(Panther Creek) is the bar right now, I think the way we played in the second half that we were right there with them.”
The Catamounts’ other UNC-Charlotte commit, senior fullback Rachael Everhart, earned the praise of Panther Creek head coach David Grant for her performance in the second half.
“We were trying to get ourselves organized in the second half because they were taking it to us a little bit,” Grant said. “You probably heard me yell to Rachael a few times, all it takes is a simple ‘Hey!’ and if she wants it fixed, she’ll fix it herself. She’s been with me for three years now and she knows she has the freedom to be able to do that.”
Having outscored opponents 17-1 on the season, the expectation is for Panther Creek to make another run at an NCHSAA 4A championship game.
Socha, who missed all of last year with an ACL injury, is excited to be part of this year’s run.
“I’m very, very hungry,” she said. “Since they were runner-ups, it makes me want to win a state championship even more to help them get back what they couldn’t get last year.”
Grant places an emphasis on focusing on where the team is now.
“You keep them hungry, just dangle that carrot out there,” he said. “It’s more just every once in awhile rubbing it back in, they read the paper, they read the Twitter, they read all that stuff. They’ve earned it and they deserve it, but they’ll say ‘We’re going to do this or we’re doing to do that’ and I have to say ‘Hey, but we have to do this first’.”
“I have a board up in my room with team goals they all came up with, and I’d be lying to you if I said state championship wasn’t at the top of that list.”