A 1-0 halftime lead is often formidable in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A girls soccer playoffs. But not when Cardinal Gibbons regroups for a second-half comeback.
“We’ve got this game!” is what the Crusaders shouted as they broke a halftime huddle on the sideline.
Sure enough, Gibbons erased a 1-0 Middle Creek lead to beat the Mustangs 2-1 in a fourth-round game Saturday night game on the Crusaders’ field.
The victory followed a Wednesday night’s third-round triumph over another Southwest Wake Athletic Conference school. Gibbons trailed Fuquay-Varina 1-0 at halftime yet won 6-1.
“Our team doesn’t get down,” said senior Haley Garrett, who scored the game-winning goal. “We know the game is not over when the other team gets a goal first. We don’t put our heads down. We have enough heart to come back.”
Garrett scored with 13:04 to play on a shot from 15 yards out directly in front of the goal. She had planned to pass to a teammate, but a defender challenged her. Her shot was right to left to the back of the net.
“When defenders do that you can touch around them, and then I shot,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if it was going in. When I saw it go in, I ran to my teammates.”
Garrett’s goal came after Gibbons used a short corner to tie the match 1-1 just seven minutes into the second half. Sophomore Emmy Duerr tapped the ball in to freshman Maddie Reid to set up a cross from the left side. Senior Taylor Currie read Reid and scored on a header.
“I was on the goalie,” she said, “but when I saw Maddie dribble it, I backed out. It’s funny, we practiced that play, and it didn’t work. But we needed that goal, so I just went for it.”
Middle Creek controlled the pace of the game in the first half and scored 25 minutes into the match. Senior Kylie McElroy connected from about the same spot that Garrett later tallied the game-winner.
With the win, second-seeded Gibbons (21-1-1) advanced to the final four on Tuesday against Hoggard of Wilmington.
Middle Creek (15-6-3), which was seeded a deceptive No. 17, fell two wins shy of returning to the state championship game. The Mustangs were a No. 26 seed last year when Gibbons was one of their playoff victims on a Cinderella run that ended as the state runner-up.
“We had one of the best seasons in Middle Creek history,” said Mustangs coach Guy Coleman. “We won the most games in school history. We were striving to get back to the state finals, but we fell a little short.”
This year’s run to the fourth round shows last year wasn’t a fluke.
“They’re a great side,” Gibbons coach Michele Miller said. “They’re well-coached with great players. There’s no shock they’ve gone as far as they have the last two years.”