It all came down to penalty kicks.
After a thrilling second half and four overtime periods, No. 3 seed Heritage defeated No. 2 seed Pinecrest in penalty kicks to capture the girls 4A state soccer championship at N.C. State’s Dail Soccer Field on Saturday.
The game was tied 1-1 after a combined 30 minutes of overtime before the Huskies made four penalty kicks to the Patriots’ two. Heritage senior Bri Holt’s kick sealed the win that was “epic,” said Huskies’ coach Scott Sloan.
“It feels awesome,” Sloan said. “I’m so proud of these guys. To be our school’s first team (to win) a bracket championship, I’m so happy for them.”
After a scoreless first half, junior Raegan Meyer, with an assist from senior Hayley Boyles, put the Huskies on the board with 27 minutes remaining. The ball was deflected and bounced around the box before going in.
Just under three minutes later, however, Pinecrest junior Madi Pry rocketed a free kick from about 30 yards to the top right corner of the net to tie the game 1-1.
In the first 80 minutes, the Huskies had nine shots to Pinecrest’s three, and had the game’s only corner kick.
Both teams had chances to score in the four overtime periods. Heritage’s second corner kick of the day came late in the first overtime, but the ricocheted pass bounced in the air before being snagged by the Pinecrest senior keeper Carley Modlin.
In the second 10-minute overtime, the Patriots nearly capitalized on a two-on-one opportunity as Pinecrest sophomore Lauren Landry took a pass from senior forward Keeley Copper and eyed a shot at an open net. Heritage keeper Katie Hua had to come out of the goal to catch the pass.
No one scored in either of the two subsequent five-minute golden goal periods.
The state championship then went to penalty kicks.
Heritage’s crucial penalty kicks were made by sophomore Braelyn Francher, whose score gave the Huskies a 3-1 advantage, and Holt, who tucked the ball into the left corner of the net to seal the win with four penalty kicks to Pinecrest’s two.
“There was so much going through my head, but I kept my composure and my teammates also were also there to comfort me,” Holt said. “We’ve been practicing (penalty kicks) for the last couple of practices, so I was prepared.”
Francher’s go-ahead goal was enough to net her MVP honors of the state championship game.
“It means a lot, but I couldn’t have done it without my teammates,” Francher said of the honor. “I didn’t get to play last year (because of club soccer), so it meant a lot for my first year playing, and for our all seniors, to be state champions.”
The title is the first team championship in the school’s nine year history.
“It means so much,” Holt said. “It’s definitely Heritage history right now. And when we come back years later, it’s going to be a memory that we get to keep forever.”