High school girls soccer: Carson can’t knock off NPC’s top dog
By Mike London
CHINA GROVE — The pecking order in North Piedmont Conference girls soccer didn’t change on Tuesday.
South Iredell is still the program on top. Carson, runner-up to the Vikings in 2018 and 2019 before COVID wiped out 2020, is still the challenger.
Both teams entered the match unbeaten in league play, but the Vikings handled the Cougars 4-1 in summer-like conditions.
“They’re really good passers and they were in better shape than us,” Carson senior Lani Isley said. “They were able to play around us.”
South Iredell (5-1, 4-0) spent about 70 of the 80 minutes as the aggressor. Still, Carson was down just one goal for nearly 40 minutes and when you’re down one, all you need is a break.
Carson (4-1, 3-1) only had one shot on goal the entire afternoon, but sophomore Makayla Borst made that chance count with her third goal of the season.
Also standing out for Carson was sophomore goalkeeper Alona Locklear. She made a handful of terrific diving saves. South Iredell put 11 shots on frame. Locklear stopped seven. Most took extra effort.
‘They kept attacking, but I did my best to hold them back and not let them score much,” Locklear said.
The Vikings are young, which is scary. They got two goals from sophomore Olivia Ostwalt, her eighth and ninth of the season, and one each from junior Emily Hapes and sophomore Avery Lentz. Sadie Bolton, a freshman, was all over the place, and assisted on a goal.
“They’re kind of in the backyard of Lake Norman club soccer, so they’ve got girls who have played together a long time,” Carson head coach Lauren West said. “They play at a difference pace than anyone we’ve seen to this point, and some of our young players hadn’t faced anything like that. They can really get wide to give themselves scoring opportunities.”
South Iredell started quickly, racking up two goals in the first nine minutes to put the Cougars in a hole.
But Carson’s defense dug in at that point and kept South Iredell from adding to its lead.
Finally, with 12:30 left in the half, Borst scored for Carson. It was a great hustle play that came off a free kick. Borst can run and got to the ball faster than the keeper thought she could and chipped her.
“I’ve changed positions (forward to center mid), but I’m starting to like the new one,” Borst said. “I honestly don’t remember much about the goal. I was just fighting.”
“She’s not afraid of anything and she’s going after every ball,” West added.
That goal energized the Cougars. They kept the momentum for the next five minutes or so. Then they spent the last five minutes of the half frantically stopping continuous threats by the Vikings. Carson made it to halftime still down 2-1.
“We finished the first half strong,” said Isley, who was playing with a strained quad muscle. “But we didn’t sustain that intensity in the second half.”
Carson never seriously threatened in the second half. Eventually the defense wore down and buckled under the constant pressure.
The backbreaker was a long-range goal by the Vikings with 11:52 left to play.
“I jumped and got a hand on it,” Locklear said. “I just couldn’t stop it.”
South Iredell punched in another goal with 6:14 on the clock for the final score.
“We got tired and when you get fatigued you make mistakes,” Isley said. “We shouldn’t have lost 4-1. We got sloppy at the end.”
Carson keeps track, and West reported that South Iredell, faster and taller than Carson at a number of positions, beat the Cougars to 42 balls that might have gone either way.
“We’ll play them again,” West said. “But we found out today we’ve got to work harder and train harder.”
Carson’s visit to South Iredell will be on April 22, the last day of the regular season.
The immediate concern for Carson, which still has realistic wild-card playoff hopes, is Thursday’s match at North Iredell. North Iredell is the biggest threat to Carson finishing second in the NPC. The Cougars beat North Iredell 1-0 on a goal by Riley Isley when the teams met in China Grove on March 23.
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