LINCOLNTON — The Lincolnton Wolves fell to the Newton-Conover Red Devils 3-1 in the third round of the 2A soccer playoffs on Wednesday.
The Wolves were anxious to win and advance to the fourth round of the playoffs, an honor they’ve already achieved twice in school history. The most recent time was two years ago, according to head coach Ian Leith.
He knew his squad lacked their usual intensity and aggression in the match’s first half, allowing their opponent to pull ahead by one goal in the final three minutes.
Seniors Kevin Orias and David Segura initiated first-half play, but the Red Devils quickly charged the ball, gaining a free kick at the midfield mark less than a minute into the game.
The visiting team’s goalkeeper scooped up Lincolnton’s first shot of the night 30 seconds later.
Newton-Conover heavily pressured the Wolves’ defense, but senior Jose Sanchez continuously worked to thwart their efforts.
The fast-paced game saw the ball bounce across the Red Devils’ defending goal at the 9-minute mark, but no Wolves were on-hand to snag a potential shot.
A Lincolnton corner kick at the 15-minute mark forced the Newton-Conover goalkeeper to jump to great heights to secure the ball.
On the Wolves offensive end, senior forward Dennis Rodriguez excited fans with his swift dribbling down the sideline midway through the half in an effort to gain the game’s first goal, but Newton-Conover’s defense remained tight and unyielding against their opponent.
Segura managed to secure multiple shots on goal during the first 40-minute period, most of which traveled high over the cross bar or just left and right of the goalposts.
Finally, at the 37-minute mark, Newton-Conover took the lead after a player headed the ball into the net past senior Lincolnton goalkeeper Kwawtli Mendez.
The Red Devils started the second half with possession, launching the ball high over players’ heads and straight to Mendez.
At the four-minute mark, Sanchez headed the ball toward the net but the goalkeeper quickly deflected the shot over the crossbar, sending the ball out of bounds and out of danger for the Newton-Conover team.
Midway through the second half, referees issues the first of three yellow cards, forcing a Red Devil player off the field.
Lincolnton soon evened the scoreboard at the 27-minute mark with a successful play by Segura and Orias. Segura shot the ball to Orias, who headed the ball into the net.
With 12 minutes left to play, the Red Devils snuck a second goal in behind Mendez from inside the box.
Less than a minute later, referees issued the third and final yellow card against the celebratory team.
Despite Newton-Conover’s one-point lead, the Lincolnton squad maintained hope for a victory until their opponent secured a third goal in the last 50 seconds of play. Spirits sank after Mendez came out of the goal box to pressure his Red Devil threat, and the player shot the ball past him, lighting up the scoreboard.
Following the final whistle, Wolves fell to their knees in defeat while the Red Devils screamed victory shouts.
In spite of the loss, Leith praised his team’s successful season.
“It was a great season with a great group of players, wonderful fans and a student body that supported us throughout,” he said. “We are proud to have represented Lincolnton High School as well as we did.”