LINCOLNTON — The Lincolnton Wolves snagged a 3-2 victory over the North Henderson Knights (8-12-3) amid chilly temperatures Monday night at home in the first round of the 2A state playoffs.
Lincolnton completed regular season play as the best team in the Southern Piedmont 1A/2A Conference with a 15-4-1 record.
Lincolnton head coach Ian Leith commended both squads for their skills both offensively and defensively during the match but noted how the Wolves needed improvement in their shooting capabilities.
“We need to be confident and finish our chances (in order) to score better for the rest of the season,” he said.
Despite tensions among fans and occasional loud disapproval over referees’ calls, the match proved “exceptionally clean,” Leith said.
Yellow cards were nonexistent, and fouls were limited.
The Wolves trailed their out-of-county opponent by one goal throughout the first half after the purple and white team obtained a point at the 12-minute mark by sneaking the ball past senior goalkeeper Kwawtli Mendez and into the net.
Senior midfielder Marco Nino took a shot on the Knights goal four minutes later, sending the ball straight into the hands of the goalkeeper followed by a similar play by senior teammate David Segura, who took a shot just feet from the net. The goalkeeper, standing ready and alert, immediately blocked the close shot.
Segura refused to give up after his failed attempt and again launched the ball low and hard at the Knights net, sending the ball bouncing off one of the goalposts.
North Henderson obtained the match’s first corner kick at the 36-minute mark. A Lincolnton defender headed the shot out of the box but not out of North Henderson’s possession. The visiting team took a close shot off the header, but Wolves defenders were quick to block the ball and send it back up the field.
The Wolves remained scoreless until 11 minutes into the second half after senior midfielder Kevin Orias, who spent most of the season’s early matchups on the sideline recovering from an injury, secured the point, tying the game.
Players immediately sprinted towards each other and celebrated with hugs and high-fives.
However, three minutes later, the Knights snagged a second goal, again taking the lead. An opponent secured the shot after the ball deflected backward off a Lincolnton player inside the box.
The Wolves stayed persistent in the minutes that followed the goal, and at the 17-minute mark again lit up the scoreboard with a goal by Segura.
Facing their second draw of the game at 2-2, both squads were certain they’d soon find themselves in overtime play. However, Segura snagged the winning goal for his team and a personal hat trick with a little over a minute left in the half. The Lincolnton player shot the ball past his opponent’s goalkeeper after his opponent moved too far out of the goal mouth in an attempt to shut down Segura as he traveled toward the net.
“We are proud of our ability to come from behind and have faith in each other to win when it matters,” Leith said.