In the fourth round of the state playoffs, the third-seeded Heritage women’s soccer team defeated No. 2 seed Leesville on Saturday, 2-0, thanks to goals from senior forward Hayley Boyles and senior midfielder Fain Buete.
The Huskies will advance to the Eastern Regional Final and play No. 1 seed Hoggard in Wilmington.
It took a late score by sophomore Mackenzie Lipscomb to edge Heritage past No. 11 seed Millbrook 1-0 in the previous round, but the Huskies wasted no time on Saturday, as Boyles’ third-minute goal thanks to a setup by senior Bri Holt proved to be the separator.
Heritage head coach Scott Sloan discussed the strategical advantage that an early goal provides.
“We have a lot of depth,” Sloan said. “I think we can comfortably sub four, five, six girls at a time. That goal that we get early allows us to dictate the substitution patterns. It means we can tactically move players in and out.”
The goal was just the fifth that the Pride allowed all year, one that resulted in the team’s first loss of the season. Leesville was 22-0-1 coming into Saturday.
“We don’t make excuses, we don’t point figures at anybody,” Leesville head coach Paul Dinkenor said. “I think our team was very together the whole season, and we just didn’t get it done today. But you can’t judge a 23-game season by one game.”
The Pride were not without opportunities in both periods, including multiple corner kicks and a free kick just outside the box early in the second half, but found themselves unable to capitalize. It was the second time this season that Leesville went scoreless, with the first coming in a 0-0 draw against Holly Springs on April 4.
Still, the Pride remained just a score away. A save by Leesville keeper Brenna Murray prevented a second Heritage goal midway through the second half, one that likely would have put the game away for good.
But moments later, it was Buete who provided what her head coach called “the killer,” a rocketed free kick that was deflected before finding the back of the net to put the Huskies up 2-0.
Saturday’s match was the first multi-goal game Leesville has allowed all season, yet after the loss, Dinkenor was optimistic.
“I have nothing but praise for my seven seniors,” he said. “We lost a lot from last year’s team, we made it to round five last year, these girls are back-to-back conference champs, and all they gotta do is hold their head up high.”
As for Sloan, he credited the team’s leaders – namely seniors Teresa Hupp, Jessica Cannon, Boyles, and Buete – for overcoming trying conditions.
“It’s 93 degrees, it’s hot, we’re coming off a tough game,” Sloan said. “You don’t win this time of year unless you have strong leaders.”
The Huskies will need strong leaders against top-seeded Hoggard, who they will face on Wednesday for a spot in the state championship. Heritage defeated Hoggard 2-1 in the first game of the regular season on March 1.