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Cougars Reach State Title Game

CATA's Lady Cougars are headed to the state championship game in Raleigh.

The talk among some of the players on the Central Academy girls soccer team this season was that the Cougars had the talent to play for a state championship.

Central Academy lived up to its lofty expectation by overcoming an early two-goal deficit to defeat Avery County, 3-2, at home in the semifinals of the state 1A playoffs on Saturday.

Larie Bailey scored twice, including the game-winner, for the Cougars, who play either Friday or Saturday in Raleigh against Southwest Onslow, the defending state champions.

“The beginning of this year we just knew we could take it all the way,” said four-year starter Hannah Hill. “It feels good to get there. … We deserve this. I am not really shocked, because we have worked hard to get here.”

The Cougars become the first team in the five-year history of Central Academy to play in a state championship game, but did so after Avery County scored two goals in the opening 10 minutes.

The Vikings got the early lead on a header by Katelynn Eudy, who has signed with Division II Lees-McRae, and a 15-yard shot by senior forward Mary Chestnut Smith. Central Academy began to chip away at the lead with Bailey scoring off a rebound following a shot by Kaitlin Faassen in the 12th minute of the match.

Stephanie Arias evened the match 10 minutes later when the sophomore corralled a loose ball at the top of the box and sent a shot into the upper left corner of the goal.

“Once we got that first one, the girls thought we could score, and it got us back into the match,” said Central Academy coach Jay Niessner, whose team improves to 19-4-1 with its sixth-straight win. “The second one right before the half put us right back there with them.”

The two first-half goals for the Cougars, who are ranked fifth in the state 1A poll by eurosportscoreboard.com, came with Central pushing players up the middle, the game-winner in the second half occurred under different circumstances.

After junior Laura Courtney won possession of the ball near midfield, the forward pushed it to the corner before sending a cross in front of the Vikings’ goal. Bailey jumped between two defenders to chest in the game-winning score in the 53rd minute of the match.

“At halftime, we noticed to play it more to the corners,” said Bailey, who has scored a team-high 24 goals this season. “Instead of working it in middle, where they just kicked it out. So we began playing it more to the corners, which made things a lot smoother. … We have more speed at the top, and they couldn’t catch us to the corners, and then we were able to play it across the field.”

After two early goals, the Vikings, who are fourth in the state poll, didn’t muster much offense with Avery County (17-5-2) getting just three shots in the final 70 minutes of the match. Hill combined with sophomore Anna Strickland and juniors Alex Leitner and Katie Kurtz to hold the Vikings, who scored 101 goals this season, scoreless after halftime.

“We weren’t really ready,” said Hill, who has signed with Division II Pfeiffer University. “We thought, ‘we got this’ because we were thinking about Raleigh. It was Raleigh here we come. But after the goals, it sort of got us going, and we got focused.”

Central Academy becomes the fourth girls soccer program in 11 years from Union County to play in the state championship. Parkwood reached the title game in 2001 and 2004, while Weddington played in 2007. Marvin Ridge is the only team to win the state championship after the Mavericks defeated Cardinal Gibbons, 1-0, last season.

Article courtesy of The Enquirer Journal. 

If you are interested in traveling to Cary for the state final at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 28th, click here for directions to WakeMed Soccer Park and the team's itinerary.

Written by: Lee Noles, Enquirer Journal
Posted: May 23, 2011 by Deb Christensen

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