When North Raleigh Christian started the year with four straight losses, head coach Ed Pinon knew his team was playing well, but wasn’t sure when the tide would turn.
The Knights, in search of a goalkeeper, started the season with a field player in goal. When their keeper couldn’t make it to a game, Pinon found out that junior Keelie Johnson also had some previous experience in goal.
“She stepped in and filled that role, and I think that has given us some confidence in the back,” Pinon said. “But again, the team was playing good, but it just wasn’t right offensively. I think we went through like three games without scoring a goal.
“I just said let’s be patient. Don’t worry. Don’t press the panic button. We’re doing fine. We’re losing, but it’s going to get better. Just hang in there. So that gave us confidence in the back, but we also continued to step up or play and get better.”
The Knights (4-4) beat Greensboro Day in Greensboro to capture their first win of the year, the first time NRCA has won that matchup in the 16 years Pinon has been at the school. They continued their win streak through the Brittany Showcase and their conference opener Tuesday with a 1-0 win over Saint Mary’s.
“We went from a first rough week of games to it getting better, and this is a great start for us,” Pinon said. “Saint Mary’s is a strong team. ... We were fortunate to get the win tonight, because it was really kind of an even game back and forth.”
Junior Haley Gibson’s goal in the 72nd minute was enough for the Knights. When sophomore Mia Pierce got a turn on the ball between two Saints players at midfield, she pushed it ahead to Gibson, who finished on a one-on-one matchup.
It was one of just a few chances the Knights got at the goal in a game in which Saint Mary’s (3-3-2) had several looks, but couldn’t capitalize.
“We were possessing well and passing well. We were just having trouble finishing,” Saint Mary’s coach Jim Lavery said. “It was like this when we played Greensboro Day, we had 30 shots on them, and we couldn’t finish. We played St. David’s the same way, and they got two counter-goals on us.
“We’ve just got to finish. They’ve got to really focus on it. We’ve got some really talented girls up top, they’ve just got to find a way to finish. A shot’s a shot, but a quality shot is goal.”