Sometimes the ball drops just the right way.
Leesville Road forward Hannah Arostegui was alone in open space about 25 yards away from the Apex goal early in the second half of Friday night’s N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A second-round playoff game when the ball came bounding straight to her.
The freshman wasted no time corralling it before sending a hard chip shot over the outstretched arms of Cougars’ keeper Alexa Skrinak for the game’s only score in the 46th minute, catapulting the Pride into the third round.
“It just came right to me,” said Arostegui, who had 12 of her team’s 19 shots.
Her chip shot, or dip shot as she called it, was not on purpose.
“I’m not really ever thinking about how I’m going to shoot it,” she said. “My dip shot, it just got over the keeper.”
Next up for fourth-seeded Leesville Road is No. 28 Holly Springs. The No. 20 Cougars finished up 10-10-1.
“Apex was as dangerous as ever,” Leesville coach Paul Dinkenor said. “We have a lot of history. It was good that a great goal won this one. It deserved to be 1-0.”
The first half saw no shots on frame until the 34th minute, when Arostegui took a feed from Cayley Kennedy deep inside the penalty area.
Arostegui got past her defender and sent a knuckling effort on frame that was stuffed by Skrinak.
Two minutes later, the Pride put another effort on target when Arostegui took a pass from midfielder Madison Hoffman. The forward pushed the ball past her defender before her shot went right to Skrinak.
Apex’s best chance in the first half came early on.
In the sixth minute, midfielder Sophie Coleman fed Sara Moushegian. The freshman took control of the ball, splitting two defenders before her shot just glanced off a Pride player for a corner kick as it went wide.
Two other attempts by Apex attackers were thwarted when Pride keeper Shannon Hardy came off her line to grab crosses out of the air to avoid any complications.
Hardy’s play in back, along with defenders Brenna O’Brien, Rachel Golden, MacKenzie Gower and Avery Gardner were a huge part of the victory.
“In a game like this with few chances, which team can capitalize on the one comes out ahead,” Apex head coach Kevin Todd said. “Their defense did a good job of keeping us from creating more runs. And their keeper, she owned the box.”
Hardy only had to make one save on the night, and that came in the match’s 79th minute.
Moushegian got control of a breakaway and pushed toward the goal. She beat her defender, but her shot from about 22 yards out went directly to Hardy, who snatched it as Moushegian lept in the air and slammed both hands on the ground.
“Most of the time, I was looking to shut it down before anything happened,” Hardy said.