Washington falls in state championship, 2-0

Published 2:34 pm Saturday, May 31, 2014




RALEIGH — A bruised and battered Washington squad, battling through injuries and a limited bench, fell one game short of its championship goal Saturday in Raleigh, as the Pam Pack fell to West Stokes, 2-0.

Down two forwards – senior and Class 2-A’s leading goal scorer Christian Heggie and sophomore Isabella Mayo, the scoring options were limited for head coach Ed Rodriguez.

“We definitely tried as hard as we could, but with our injuries and lack of people, it’s hard to keep going the whole game,” said senior captain Alana Jefferson, who is second on her team in scoring with 36 goals. “We definitely got tired at the end, but we left everything out there and that’s really all you can ask for.”

Both the Pack and the Wildcats were able to match each other’s intensity in the midfield early on, resulting in split possession for most of the first half.

In the second minute, junior midfielder Caitlyn Scott opened up space in front of the net and had a great look, but was unable to control the ball for a one-timer.  Likewise, the Wildcats had a key opportunity on he other end, as goalkeeper Emily Alligood was able to deflect a one-on-one breakaway shot from senior forward Mara Loonen, similar to the crucial save made in Tuesday’s semi-final game versus Croatan.

Fatigued and simply outmatched, the Pam Pack attack couldn’t break through West Stokes’ defense for the remainder of the half, although Jefferson managed to fire off a handful of shots on net from about 25 to 30 yards out, including a free kick she curled just a foot over the crossbar with two minutes left in the half.

With both defenses limiting offensive opportunities, Washington and West Stokes remained scoreless at the half. After netting countless early goals this season, the Pack Pack began to exhibit verbal and physical frustration during the break. The Wildcats, on the other hand, remained calm. That poise, along with numerous reserves available to come off the bench, would later prove to be the difference in the game.

Out of the gate, West Strokes took full control of the tempo, systematically controlling the ball via well-placed one- and two-touch passing and keeping it away from the Pack’s playmakers: Jefferson, freshman Sydney Edwards and senior Harley Hudson.

Loonen and junior midfielder Morgan Snow tested Alligood with a couple of high-velocity shot on goal, all of which the skillful Washington goalie corralled. But in the 59th minute, the Wildcats finally broke through after senior captain Taylor Hopper received a timely pass from junior Alex Jellison in the box, redirecting it to the left of Alligood, who had no chance of stopping it.  It was the first goal to slip past the Pack’s keeper in almost two months.

It was a crippling blow, but Washington kept up the fight defensively. Alligood continued to make save after save, including denying another breakaway just seconds after the first goal.

However, with seven minutes remaining, a Wildcats’ striker blasted one to the left of Alligood, who fully extended to make an incredible save. Unfortunately, Snow was there for the rebound and an easy goal, sealing the victory for West Stokes.

As the final whistle sounded, raw emotion poured out of both squads. Despite the disappointing ending, the 2014 Washington girls soccer team will go down as one of the best groups of athletes in the high school’s history.

“It’s been an experience of my life and I know it’s been an experience of their lives,” Rodriguez said. “It’s done a lot for the school, the community, the students – we had a good crowd today – and everyone has really rallied behind us.”

Washington received the second-place trophy, as West Stoke’s Hopper was named Championship Player-of-the-Game.

With the loss, the Pam Pack finish the season 22-3.

“We’ve had so much support from everyone in our town, everyone in Beaufort County,” Jefferson said. “It was amazing to see how they all backed us up, just because we made it this far and overcame so many challenges with everyone that got hurt. It was just amazing how everyone supported us in coming here.”