Welcome back, Maggie Pierce.
Back after missing two games to participate in the U.S. Women’s National Team U17 camp in Florida, the Cardinal Gibbons standout had a goal and an assist on Tuesday to help lead the Crusaders to a 2-0 victory over visiting Hoggard High of Wilmington in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A East girls soccer final.
Taylor Currie also scored a goal for Gibbons (22-1-1), which will meet the winner of Wednesday’s contest between West Forsyth and Charlotte Catholic for the 4A state title Saturday at N.C. State’s Dail Soccer Complex. Gibbons is seeking its first state title since winning the 3A title in 2013.
“I knew coming back (from Florida) my team had enough energy to win this game,” said Pierce, a sophomore who has 21 goals and 26 assists this season.
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Hoggard’s remarkable state playoff run came to an end with the loss. The Vikings (22-3-1) had shutouts in their first three playoff games before toppling No. 1 seed and previously unbeaten Green Hope, 2-1, on penalty kicks on Friday to reach the 4A East final.
“I think there were a lot of things we could have made excuses about, playing on turf, being so wet, they have a National team player,” Hoggard coach Justin Schatz said. “But we didn’t make any of those excuses, they were just better than us tonight. The scoreboard showed it. ... My girls worked as hard as they could, it’s just unfortunate we couldn’t advance.”
Gibbons administered considerable offensive pressure from the onset of Tuesday’s game, spending much of the opening 10 minutes deep in Hoggard territory, and it paid off when Pierce boomed a shot from just inside the 25-yard-line inside the left post past Vikings goalie Blair Barefoot for a 1-0 lead with 31 minutes, 38 seconds remaining.
Pierce then set up Currie for the insurance goal midway through the second half that essentially sealed up the win. Working against a double team, Pierce sent a perfectly-placed touch pass ahead to Currie inside the box, who lined a quick shot inside the right post with 21:23 left.
Defensively, Gibbons shined as well. Hoggard did manage to produce a few scoring opportunities, but those chances were limited, with Gibbons senior defender Montgomery Cooling doing a fine job of marking high-scoring Vikings senior Siara Southerland throughout the match.
“Monty is a really smart player, she’s technical and she’s very capable with the ball at her feet so all she has to do is get possession for us,” Gibbons coach Michelle Miller said. “I think she did what she needed to do with the support of the other players, when we have Reni (Taiwo) dropping in behind, Monty has that freedom to step. .... It worked really well, because (Southerland) is crazy dangerous.”