Clinton’s Lady Dark Horse Soccer team played host to the Croatan Cougars in a fourth round playoff match on Friday night at the Darkness Soccer Complex. A large crowd packed the stands in anticipation of a high stakes playoff battle between two teams with a history of playing each other in low scoring defensive battles. The fans were not disappointed as they were treated to an intense, well played soccer match and as is the case so many times in games like this, one play had a huge impact on the outcome.
What turned out to be the only goal of the game came a short three minutes into the contest when Croatan’s Karlie Yeomans slipped past the Clinton defenders and fired a shot into the back of the Lady Dark Horse goal giving the Cougars an early 1-0 lead. The Lady Horses wasted no time trying to answer when just a couple of minutes later Reagan Barefoot was roughed up by a Cougar defender crossing midfield. Corey Spell attempted the resulting penalty kick but her attempt sailed high over the Croatan goal.
A contest that had the feel of a shootout early, quickly turned into a defensive masterpiece for both teams. The Lady Horses turned back several deep runs by the Cougars, with Tori Tyndall making key plays in goal for Clinton. The Cougars best opportunity to add to their lead was on a penalty kick that Tyndall tipped off the cross bar, and caught the rebound to stave off a close call. The Lady Horses would get three very good opportunities to score in the first half coming up empty on each threat. The best of these opportunities came late in the half when Alaina Capps took a Hannah Smith pass at the eighteen and fired a shot, only to have the Croatan goal keeper take the ball off her foot to avert the Lady Horses’ final first half scoring threat the 39:45 mark. The first half saw each team take three shots on goal with Clinton getting one crack at a corner kick.
There was no let down in intensity levels in the second half as the quick paced defensive struggle continued. Clinton had several opportunities to score, keeping possession of the ball in the Cougar end of the field for much of the half, but came up empty each time. When the Cougars moved the ball across midfield they were quickly turned back by Clinton defenders, Liz Sumner, Lillie Turlington, Lauryn Worley and Corey Spell, keeping the score close enough that Croatan could not relax until the final horn sounded.
Ultimately the lone Croatan goal would stand up and provide the margin of victory for the visitors. The Cougars could only muster one shot on goal in the second half, but they successfully fended off four Clinton shots on goal and 2 corner kicks to preserve the 1-0 win and earn a spot in the Eastern Regional Finals next week.
“Our team played very well tonight, I thought we played well enough to win, just a couple of mistakes and they took advantage and scored the early goal. The same thing happened last year in the fourth round when we lost a hard fought 1-0 game,” said Clinton head coach Jeff Smith. Smith complimented his Seniors, saying, “I just can’t say enough about that group of girls, they have accomplished so much for our program over their careers.”
Croatan Coach, Paul Slater, said, “for us it is a great result, not a great performance. We were fortunate to get that early goal. We had no intentions of sitting back like we did but we just could not possess at all, but give full credit to Clinton for that, they played very well.”
The sixth seed Croatan team improves their record to 17-3-3 and moves on to play the winner of the Washington, Carrboro game in the Eastern Regional Finals next week. Clinton wraps up another good season with a final record of 21-3-1, 12-0 in the Four County Conference.