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Cox Mill outmuscles Watauga, 2-0, advances to third round of 4A state playoffs

By David Rogers. BOONE, N.C. — All things come to an end at some point. For No. 2 seeded Watauga women’s soccer in the NCHSAA 4A West state playoffs bracket, the season ended sooner than they would have liked with a 2-0 upset at the hands of No. 18 Cox Mill at Jack Groce Stadium on May 18.

Bonus Photos at bottom of article

Despite the outcome not favoring the large local contingent of fans in the grandstands, it was one of the most entertaining women’s soccer matches of the year, featuring skillful, fit, athletic and well-coached players on both sides. It was fast-paced, momentum often turning on a dime. Blink, and you missed the ball being sent in the opposite direction.

Watauga’s Katie Durham (3) is upended as she strikes the ball on May 18, in the Pioneers’ second round of state playoffs game vs. No. 18 seeded Cox Mill at Jack Groce Stadium. Photographic image by David Rogers

It was also a highly physical affair, the referee “letting the girls play” with a lot of pushing and shoving for which the Pioneers weren’t quite ready.

Although Watauga dominated possession in the first half, Cox Mill was first on the scoreboard with a penalty kick by senior Skylar Noll, the ball scooting along the ground just beyond the outstretched hands of the diving Watauga goalkeeper, freshman Rylee Mitchell. The PK was awarded on an inadvertent “hand ball” inside the penalty box.

Noll also got the second Chargers goal as time was expiring in the game’s second half on a free kick the looped into the upper right corner of the net.

Watauga sophomore wing Kate Sears dances past a sliding tackle attempt by a Cox Mill defender in the second half of the May 18 second round match at Jack Groce Stadium. Photographic image by David Rogers

Much of the Cox Mill success in this soccer match must be credited to junior goalkeeper Reese Dejong, who made several acrobatic saves to turn back the Pioneers’ offensive barrage. Watauga produced a whopping 15 shots on goal, none able to make it by the athletic Dejong.

“We held possession more than 50 percent of the time,” said Pioneer junior center forward Katie Durham, after the match. “We attacked, but could not buy a goal. Their goalie was very good.”

Cox Mill goalkeeper Reese Dejong played a critical role in the Chargers’ second round win over the Pioneers, credited with 15 saves on the day. Photographic image by David Rogers

“It was incredibly fast-paced,” said Watauga head coach Chris Tarnowski in reflecting on the match. “Both teams could move the ball up and down the field quickly. The 4A playoffs are no joke… Cox Mill is extremely athletic and they love to play in the air. This was a fairly even battle. We had a lot of good opportunities but credit their goalkeeper for making some of the most acrobatic saves I have seen in a long time. We have had an incredible season but, like I told our players, in the playoffs only one team gets to end their season on a win. Eventually, all of the good things have to come to an end.”

With the win, Cox Mill advances to the third round where they will meet the No. 7 seed in the 4A West bracket, Hough, which defeated No. 10 Cuthbertson, 2-1.

Watauga completed its season with a 15-3-1 record overall, 9-0-1 in Northwestern Conference play.

BONUS PHOTOS

All photographic images by David Rogers

Cox Mill’s Skylar Noll is able to get the ball just past the efforts of a diving Rylee Mitchell, Watauga’s freshman goalkeeper. Photographic image by David Rogers

Photographic image by David Rogers

Cox Mill goalkeeper Reese Dejong played a critical role in the Chargers’ second round win over the Pioneers, credited with 15 saves on the day. Photographic image by David Rogers

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