Clinton’s Lady Dark Horse soccer team traveled to Carrboro on Saturday night for their fourth round NCHSSA playoff matchup with the top seeded Lady Jaguars. Clinton turned in a gutsy performance, taking a very good Carrboro team to the limit before falling 5-2 in overtime.
After waiting a 52-minute delay due to threatening weather, the game kicked off under a light rain shower. The Lady Dark Horses spent much of the first half playing defense as the very athletic Lady Jags sent shot after shot sailing toward the Clinton goal. Edye Jane Carr, Clinton’s goal keeper, had a busy night making save after save to keep the game knotted in a nil-all tie for the first 27 minutes of the contest.
Carrboro drew first blood in the 27th minute when freshman Alexis Wojnovich drilled a long shot from the left wing that found the far corner of the Clinton net to give the Lady Jags a 1-0 advantage. Undaunted, Clinton got the equalizer when they broke through the Lady Jags defenses with Nicole Spell dropping a nice pass to Alaina Capps, who pounded a shot from 20 yards out that found its way over the Lady Jags keeper to knot the score at 1-1 with five minutes remaining in the first half. The match remained tied for the final five minutes as each team made runs but neither could break the 1-1 tie.
Carrboro came out in the second half with renewed intensity, holding possession of the ball almost exclusively and when Clinton did threaten to cross midfield it seemed a Carrboro defender was there to cut off the Lady Dark Horse passes. Meanwhile the Carrboro forwards were putting relentless pressure on the Clinton goal, but time after time, as they had in the first half, Clinton’s defense answered the bell to keep the match in reach.
In the 66th minute the Lady Dark Horses finally pieced together a series of nice passes, as Capps sent the ball across the middle to a streaking Katey Yang. Yang caught up to the fine pass and sent a beauty of a shot into the Lady Jags’ net to put Clinton on top 2-1 with 13:45 remaining in the match.
The Lady Dark Horse celebration was short lived as the prospect of playing from behind seemed to ignite a fire in the home team. The Lady Jags tied the game less than two minutes later when a well placed corner kick into a scrum of players just in front of the Clinton goal was tapped past Carr for the second tie of the night at the 67:58 mark.
Each team would have a couple more opportunities to score in regulation but a series of fine defensive plays turned in by each team thwarted the threats. Clinton’s Carr made possibly two of her finest saves of many in the last couple of minutes as she punched a high shot over the cross bar and, then with less than five seconds remaining in regulation stuffed a close call off a last ditch corner kick by the Lady Jags, securing the overtime periods and preserving Clinton’s chances to pull off the upset.
The Lady Jags turned up the intensity another notch in the first overtime period when they scored a close range goal less than 45 seconds into the extra period and then followed with a second goal less than two minutes later to give the home team a 4-2 edge and deflate the hopes of a Clinton upset. The Lady Dark Horses seemed to run out of gas after standing up so well to the continuous pressure from the Carrboro offense. Clinton was unable to mount a serious threat throughout the remainder of the first overtime period.
Things went from bad to worse for the Lady Dark Horses in the second overtime period. Carrboro converted on their fifth score of the match three minutes into the second 10-minute period. Carrboro spent the final seven minutes of the extended match playing keep away from the tired Clinton defenders and began to celebrate their fourth round win as time wound down.
After the game Clinton’s head coach Jeff Smith said, “I just told the girls that they lost to a very good soccer team tonight. Carrboro is the real deal and our team played hard and gave them all they wanted for 80 minutes. I am very proud of their effort.” Smith lamented some sloppy ball handing by his team adding, “we had some chances tonight, but we gave the ball away too much. We had a chance to win this thing — leading with 12 minutes to play we were right where we wanted to be — but we made some mistakes in overtime that were costly.”
Smith left no doubt that he was proud of his team’s accomplishments this season.
“We won another conference championship, made it to the fourth round of the playoffs for the third time in four years and had another 20-plus win season. And they took a very good soccer team to the limit tonight. These girls have nothing to hang their heads about, and I am proud to be associated with them all.”
Clinton wraps up the season with a 21-6 record and as Smith noted made another deep run into the playoffs. Carrrboro, 19-1-2, advances to the 2A Eastern Regional finals on Tuesday night when they will host First Flight for the right to play for their second consecutive state 2A title.
Reach Mike Carter at [email protected]