Nicole Dunkley’s first-half goal was the difference in Kerr-Vance Academy’s 1-0 win over Halifax Academy in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 1A girls soccer championship match Saturday afternoon at Campbell University’s Eakes Athletic Complex.
The Spartans, who are state champions for the first time since 1993, finish their season at 18-3 while Halifax Academy winds up at 15-6.
“I’m extremely happy,” Kerr-Vance coach Raz Teagan said. “I’m very proud of our team. I think they’ve been working extremely hard. It’s just been an amazing season. It’s hard to find the words. ... I had the chance to have my dad here in the bleachers from Romania. He flew in two days ago. … It’s just an amazing day.”
The teams split two earlier meetings this season, with each winning on its home field. Halifax Academy won 3-2 in overtime on March 28 in Roanoke Rapids and the Spartans claimed a 3-2 win in Henderson on April 28.
The final margin of victory might have been the same in the championship game, but the way the match played out was quite different. The Spartans peppered the Halifax Academy net with 22 shots on the day, compared to only two for the Vikings, and dominated possession for long stretches of the match.
“The way I look at it, I think we controlled (the ball) most of the time we played,” Teagan said of the earlier meetings. “Somehow, I expected them to be concerned with not letting us score.”
That was the plan for the Vikings, who had to adjust tactically to cope with some injuries and the warm weather.
“They played a lot of offense against us today,” Halifax Academy coach Tim George said. “Our defense hung tough. We’ve had better offense than we had today. We’ve got some injuries and some exhaustion going on up top with our offense. We gutted out this, but we didn’t have a lot of offense today.”
The Spartans would get all the offense they would need in the 23rd minute. Emma Hogge slipped a pass into the box for Dunkley, and the NCISAA all-state selection cashed in from close range to make it 1-0.
Hogge nearly made it 2-0 in the 33rd minute, but her shot on target was cleared was off the line by Hailey Eason. Five minutes later, Karley Eason had to clear another Spartans effort off the goal line to preserve the 1-0 score line at the half.
The next 40 minutes featured more of the same, as Vikings keeper Jordan Strickland made a series of sprawling saves in the second half to give her team a fighting chance.
“Jordan Strickland stepped up today and had a great game,” George said. “She had quick feet, and her hands were all over the place. She did a great job today.”
Still, while Strickland’s strong play might have frustrated his team’s fans, Teagan was happy enough to take his 1-0 victory.
“We probably could have scored a couple more,” he said. “It doesn’t matter. All it takes is one more than the other team. We’ll take that.”