Ladybirds fall just short in season-ending loss | The Enterprise
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Ladybirds fall just short in season-ending loss

Posted on May 25, 2022

School SportsSports
Southern Nash goalkeeper Dahlia Romero sends a ball downfield during a third round playoff loss to Croatan.

Andrew Schnittker | Times

Southern Nash goalkeeper Dahlia Romero sends a ball downfield during a third round playoff loss to Croatan.

Southern Nash's Leslie Alonso (13) and Croatan's Kaygan Forsythe (4) battle for possession during an NCHSAA third round playoff game.

Andrew Schnittker | Times

Southern Nash's Leslie Alonso (13) and Croatan's Kaygan Forsythe (4) battle for possession during an NCHSAA third round playoff game.

Southern Nash senior Kailyn Younes (16) sends a ball downfield during a third round playoff loss to Croatan.

Andrew Schnittker | Times

Southern Nash senior Kailyn Younes (16) sends a ball downfield during a third round playoff loss to Croatan.

Southern Nash's Charlotte Benson (10) dribbles the ball out of harm's way during a third round playoff loss to Croatan.

Andrew Schnittker | Times

Southern Nash's Charlotte Benson (10) dribbles the ball out of harm's way during a third round playoff loss to Croatan.

Southern Nash's Emory Gibson (15) settles a pass during a third round playoff loss to Croatan.

Andrew Schnittker | Times

Southern Nash's Emory Gibson (15) settles a pass during a third round playoff loss to Croatan.

Southern Nash goalkeeper Dahlia Romero sends a ball downfield during a third round playoff loss to Croatan.

Andrew Schnittker | Times

Southern Nash goalkeeper Dahlia Romero sends a ball downfield during a third round playoff loss to Croatan.

Southern Nash's Leslie Alonso (13) and Croatan's Kaygan Forsythe (4) battle for possession during an NCHSAA third round playoff game.

Andrew Schnittker | Times

Southern Nash's Leslie Alonso (13) and Croatan's Kaygan Forsythe (4) battle for possession during an NCHSAA third round playoff game.

Southern Nash's Leslie Alonso (13) and Croatan's Kaygan Forsythe (4) battle for possession during an NCHSAA third round playoff game.
Southern Nash senior Kailyn Younes (16) sends a ball downfield during a third round playoff loss to Croatan.
Southern Nash's Charlotte Benson (10) dribbles the ball out of harm's way during a third round playoff loss to Croatan.
Southern Nash's Emory Gibson (15) settles a pass during a third round playoff loss to Croatan.
Southern Nash goalkeeper Dahlia Romero sends a ball downfield during a third round playoff loss to Croatan.

aschnittker@wilsontimes.com | 265-7807 | Twitter: @aschnitt53

STANHOPE — The phrase “game of inches” is often a tired sports cliche, but, for the Southern Nash High girls soccer team in a 2-1 loss to Croatan in the third round of the NCHSAA 3-A playoffs, it couldn’t have been closer to the truth.

The No. 3-seeded Ladybirds of the 2-A/3-A Big East Conference, who wrapped up their program-best season at 20-2-1, fell behind 1-0 at halftime and 2-0 early in the second half against the sixth-seeded Cougars (13-4-2) of the Coastal Conference. Southern Nash refused to concede, however, and cut its deficit in half with a goal from Kailyn Younes before piling up copious chances to even the score and eventually falling short.

“They have nothing to hang their heads about,” said Southern Nash head coach Robbie Kennedy. “That’s a really good team over there. Ever since the beginning of the year, we talked about, when you play good people, when you get those handful of opportunities to score, you’ve got to take advantage. ... I really thought the last 15 minutes, we played really well. We got a lot more aggressive, our back line started pushing it up a little bit more. We were able to get behind their girls a couple more shots. I was really proud of the way we played.”

In the opening half, the Cougars controlled possession, with the Ladybirds struggling to get any kind of offensive attack going.

The Cougars eventually took a 1-0 lead with 9:04 left in the half, as Cora Taylor headed in a corner kick.

“They’re really good with possession,” Kennedy said. “Their girls in the middle are really good. When we had space and time, we got rid of it too quick, and when we didn’t have space and time, we held it too long. We just couldn’t get our reads.”

After the Cougars doubled their lead early in the second half, the Ladybirds eventually began to mount some pressure, including a breakaway chance for Amber Patterson.

They finally dented the scoreboard with 7:48 left, as Younes, a senior, took a pass from Benson, took it down the wing and buried a shot to make it 2-1.

“I’m very proud,” Younes said. “We had so many chances in the second, compared to the first half. (Kennedy) fired us up, everybody picked their heads up and we just kept pushing harder.”

With 6:56 left, there was a brief celebration as it appeared Benson tied the game, but the shot actually went through the side of the net, and therefore was ruled not a goal.

They piled up chances on both sides of Younes’ goal, including a shot that Croatan goalkeeper Caroline McAloon tipped up just off the crossbar, and the Ladybirds could not get to the rebound.

“We talk all the time about we want to compete at a high level and we want to have fun,” Kennedy said. “We want to win, and we want to have fun, but, at the end of the day, compete at a high level and have fun doing it. It’s high school sports. It ain’t a job. You can’t go back and do it again. We kept talking to them on the sidelines, ‘Just keep playing. Don’t worry about the score, just keep playing.’ I’m probably more proud of that, because it would have been easy when we went down 2-0 to mail it in, but once we got a couple balls over the top, our girls saw ‘Hey, we’ve got a chance,’ and, when we scored, we really ratcheted up the aggression.”

The game marked the end of the Southern Nash careers of seniors Younes, Valerie Velez, Vanessa Velez, goalkeeper Dahlia Romero, and Layla Austin.

“It’s meant a lot,” Younes said. “I’ve played soccer since I was small, but this is the first team where I’ve felt like it was an actual family.”

The Ladybirds have a lot to be proud of after the best season in program history, one that saw them win 20 games as well as the 2-A/3-A Big East Conference regular-season title and make their first trip to the third round of the state playoffs as they look to keep growing the program.

Southern Nash will return numerous young players who have the experience of a deep playoff run under their belts next year.

“When you win, you want more,” Kennedy said. “We’ve got 13 girls coming back. Our three leading scorers are a freshman, a sophomore and a junior, so offensively, we’ve got a chance to be really good again. We’ve got some girls on the bench that will have to work a lot in the offseason, but they see what it takes to win. You play good people, you’ve got to play good. ... When you get to the third round, everybody’s good. You don’t win two games just by showing up. Hopefully they’ll understand what it takes to get back here.”

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