Washington narrowly avoids first round upset against South Granville

Published 10:01 pm Wednesday, May 13, 2015

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS GOOD START: Senior Warner Little gets the ball on the end line and hits a pass to Sydney Edwards, who hits it past the keeper for the first goal of the match.

GOOD START: Senior Warner Little gets the ball on the end line and hits a pass to Sydney Edwards, who hits it past the keeper for the first goal of the match.

The defending eastern regional conference champions took their first step towards Raleigh on Wednesday, but it was a result far removed for last year’s 10-0 first round win.

Matched up against No. 26-seeded South Granville, the Washington girls’ soccer team narrowly avoided an early playoff exit, a late goal from senior Caitlyn Scott the difference in a 3-2 Pam Pack win.

“I told them at the beginning of the day it was going to be a very competitive game,” said head coach Ed Rodriguez, who spent the majority of the contest shifting skill players around the field to address needs. “I had no doubt they were a quality team. It tells you that you can’t look at the number of the seed, you have to look at how and who they play. A team that beats Roanoke Rapids (13-2-1) has to have some skill.”

The Vikings, hailing from Northern Carolina Conference, one of the most competitive girls’ soccer tables in the East, entered with an 8-7 record, having finished fourth in conference.

Entering as the No. 7 seed, Washington mostly split possession with the visitors in the first half. With the exception of a few opportunities on both ends, the ball was smothered by two evenly matched midfields.

Five minutes in, freshman forward Diana Castillo-Pacheco came inches from giving the Vikings a quick lead, as keeper Emily Alligood was forced to make a diving save to her right. Minutes later, Castillo-Pacheco found herself in a one-on-one situation with Alligood, but shanked the shot to the left.

Twenty minutes into the game, the Pam Pack midfield opened up the South Granville defense and Scott managed to work a free kick about 25 yards out from goal. Scott blasted a shot at keeper Alexys Pardo and senior Warner Little corralled the ball on the end line. Little shook off a defender, hitting a pass to sophomore Sydney Edwards, who curled a shot into the upper-90 for the first goal of the match.

While both teams continued to trade possessions, it was the Vikings who managed to earn viable looks inside the box, though none found the back of the net. That is, until junior forward Daphne Brown found a seam through the center of the defense and popped a shot perfectly over Alligood’s outstretched hand, tying the game at one goal each heading into the halftime.

The gritty play continued out of the break and after some time, freshman Samantha Sheppard hit a direct pass to Scott, who was able to break the tie and reclaim the lead back for Washington.

But after 10 minutes, a costly handball in the box placed South Granville on the penalty line. Alligood was unable to make the diving save, as the score remained knotted at two entering the final 15 minutes.

Little, a natural defender who has spent most of her time at forward this season, was dropped back to support the defense.

“They started pressuring us in the beginning, but we switched it a little at the end,” Rodriguez said. “That’s when we starting applying pressure and getting corner kicks.”

On one of the corners, senior Anna McLawhorn was fouled hard about 30 yards outside of the goal. Scott took the direct kick and drilled it past Pardo for the game-winning goal.

Alligood notched seven saves, while Scott finished with a game-high six shots and two goals.

With the win, Washington advances to Round 2 of the NCHSAA 2-A state playoffs, where the Pam Pack will play host to No. 10-seeded Midway (14-3, 12-2 Four County).
“I expect another tough game on Saturday against a quality team. If we play our best, we have a chance to win,” Rodriguez said.