Evie Joseph scored in the first two minutes and Miah Araba added another goal nine minutes into the first half as Carrboro defeated Dixon 2-1 on Tuesday to capture the N.C. High School Athletic Association 2A East final and earn a berth in the state championship on Saturday.
The game was played in a steady rain that made controlling the ball difficult. And even trickier for the goalkeepers to handle.
Carrboro goalkeeper Grace Nanney, who played with sure hands, said the conditions for the game were absolutely horrible but the rain didn’t dampen her enthusiasm for returning to the state title match.
“It was really, really tough,” Nanney said. “It was a pure struggle out there. But there’s nothing like going back to the state championship. Nothing beats it. It’s incredible.”
Carrboro (19-1-1), which has won its last 18 matches in a row, will be seeking its third straight state title and fourth overall. The Jaguars also beat Dixon (22-2-1) two years ago in the regional finals en route to its first title.
The two quick goal by Carrboro put Dixon back on its heels, according to Jaguars coach Jared Drexler.
“It was wet and wild,” Drexler said. “We knew Dixon was a really good team and we had a great start. Getting those two goals really helped us out. They came pretty quick.”
Marissa Silance broke up the shutout for Dixon with a header midway through the first half on a play Nanney was unable to defend. The Bulldogs took advantage of a defensive lapse by Carrboro which put them in a good position to score.
But after that, Carrboro buckled down on defense and prevented any dangerous attacks by Dixon. The Bulldogs fired away from outside but Nanney had a easy time tracking down the shots.
“Usually I am standing back there being a good cheerleader,” Nanney said. “But today, I showed everybody I’ve been working really hard and I can actually make a save. It’s nice to play in a game and be involved by making some saves.”
Drexler said Nanney has more confidence now than she’s ever had.
“She came to the team two years ago as a back and last year was thrown in as the starter,” Drexler said. “She’s been a big part of our success this year.
Carrboro didn’t get out of the game completely unscathed. The Jaguars lost Laura Gilliam with a leg injury seven minutes into the second half and she didn’t return. And Araba also received some attention at halftime but was able to get back on the field.
They’ll have until Saturday to mend and that’s when Carrboro will face West Stokes, which defeated Hendersonville 1-0 for the West Region title. The match time at N.C. State’s Dail Soccer Complex will be announced by the NCHSAA later this week.