LINCOLNTON — Soccer season is now over for the Lincolnton Lady Wolves after the team fell 4-0 to the Polk County Lady Wolverines Wednesday evening at home in the first round of the 2A state playoffs.
Head Coach Ian Leith said his squad made multiple “crucial mistakes” during the match, partially contributing to their defeat.
“We didn’t play as well as a team as we could have,” he said.
Leith noted how their opponent also had a size advantage and not only out possessed the Lady Wolves on the field but also responded to the ball first the majority of the times it was in the air.
Both squads received a second-seed ranking among the 2A teams in their respective conferences. Lincolnton had a 7-12 record going into Wednesday’s match while Polk boasted a 13-7-1 record, according the North Carolina High School Athletic Association website.
Polk commenced the match with ball possession, sending it straight back to midfielders, who launched the ball up the field and into the vicinity of Lincolnton’s Iva Ortiz.
Ortiz attempted to make an attack on her opponent’s goal, but Polk defenders quickly thwarted her efforts.
It wasn’t long before the visiting team snagged its first goal. Ellese Cash obtained the point by sending a low, hard shot past Lady Wolves goalkeeper Rachael Calero at the 2 1/2 minute mark.
Shortly after the Lady Wolverines cheered their lead, Ortiz forced Lincolnton fans to the edge of their seats by creeping close to Polk’s net. However, the play did not produce a shot.
The out-of-county squad quickly found themselves celebrating a second goal at the 14 minute mark during what appeared to be a confusing game moment.
While fans thought Calero had control of the ball, it snuck past her and the official scoring line as she tried to still save the shot. The point was credited to Polk’s McKenna Callahan.
However, the victorious team’s leading lady proved to be Lyric Flood, who controlled a majority of the Lady Wolverines’ plays and who, from several yards out, sent numerous shots toward the Lincolnton net during the evening.
From the center-mid position, she was a force for the Lady Wolves to reckon with.
Toward the middle of the half, Lincolnton put more pressure on their opponent’s goalkeeper and even amped up their aggression on defense.
Alejandra Pena showcased several blocks in the box while defending her team’s net. She even used her head to stop one of Flood’s shots from falling into the goal at the 28 minute mark.
With four minutes left to play in the half, Lincolnton gained a free kick just 20 yards out from the goal, but Polk’s goalkeeper quickly rushed to catch the ball.
Calero left the crowd talking about a priceless save in the final 30 seconds of play after she dove in front of the net to stop what seemed to be a sure goal for Polk County.
Going into the second half, the Wolves faced a disheartening 2-0 scoreboard but were far from giving up the fight.
However, the Lady Wolverines high-fived each other for the third time that evening after Cash gave them their third match point and her second personal goal.
Despite the Lady Wolverines significant lead, they didn’t fail to setup additional goal attacks, but Lincolnton stood strong. On the defensive end, Stephanie Solera assisted Pena in shutting down their opponents’ shots.
Polk’s Talia Petoia snuck by defenders near minute 25 and launched the ball straight to Calero, whose placement in the net reassured fans she would block the ball. However, it rolled under body and into the goal, doubling the visiting team’s lead.
The Lady Wolves produced minimal shots after Polk’s fourth goal, and a somber air fell across the home team’s fan side as the game concluded.
While a second round match is no longer in the Lincolnton squad’s future, Leith congratulated his players.
“I am exceptionally proud of this group’s hard work, team work and dedication to making this season as successful as it was,” he said.