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Flash and Grind: Watauga WSOC gets by South Mecklenburg in Round 2, 1-0

By David Rogers. BOONE, N.C. — A flashy goal in the first 90 seconds was all the offense No. 1- seeded Watauga needed at Jack Groce Stadium against No. 17 South Mecklenburg on May 16, thanks to the grittiest defensive performance of the season.

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Driving up the center of the field into the open, Katie Durham poked a pass downfield between two Sabre defenders and in front of a racing Morgan Flynt. The junior forward settled the ball ahead once, then quickly angled the ball across the face of the goal, past a surprised South Meck goalkeeper, and inside the opposite post for the game’s first and only score by either team.

Watauga midfielder Charlotte Cuthbert zeroes in on the ball played by South Mecklenburg on May 16, in the Pioneers 1-0, Round 2 win on May 16. Photographic image by David Rogers

Afterwards, Durham explained,”Morgan is always out there. I knew without looking that she would be there.”

Inasmuch as the Sabres kept possession of the ball for a majority of the rest of the match in their attacking third of the field, Flynt was understandably excited about making good on her opportunity.

“I may have only touched the ball 10 times the entire game,” said Flynt. “That one of those touches was a goal is pretty special.”

With Watauga’s Katie Durham applying the pressure, the South Mecklenburg goalkeeper Lilly Heaslet dives for the save. Photographic image by David Rogers

To be sure, while the Pioneers were pretty quiet offensively, their defense won the night, headlined by goalkeeper Rylee Mitchell and the core four defensive athletes, Ali Bertrand, Sammy Morgan, Lucy Willis and Sydnee Bryant, along with midfielder Sam Bertrand. Because of Watauga’s frequent dominance in the attacking third of the field in most matches this season, Mitchell was relatively untested until South Meck came along. She came up with 12 saves on the night, including defending against multiple Sabre corner kicks.

“I love our defensive players,” Mitchell said later. “They are so, so good.”

“We knew that South Meck is very good with some particularly fast players,” said Bryant, a senior, after the game. “I think the difference tonight was our team’s heart. We were determined not to let them score.”

Watauga head coach Chris Tarnowski was candid when all was said and done.

“Sometimes soccer is a funny game. Offensively, we were arguably outplayed tonight but I am so proud of our defensive performance. It was gritty and it came against a very good South Meck team that is among the best in the state,” said Tarnowski.

With the win, Watauga advances to Round 3 vs. No. 9 Mooresville on Monday, May 20. Kickoff is set tentatively for 6 p.m. at Jack Groce Stadium.

ROUND 2 RESULTS FOR THE NCHSAA 4A WEST BRACKET:

  • No. 1 Watauga def. No. 17 South Mecklenburg, 1-0
  • No. 9 Mooresville def. No. 9 Providence, 1-0
  • No. 5 Asheville def. No. 12 Reagan, 1-0
  • No. 13 Charlotte Catholic def. No. 4 Ardrey Kell, 6-0
  • No. 3 West Forsyth def. No. 14 Cuthbertson, 2-1
  • No. 6 Marvin Ridge def. No. 11 T C Roberson, 2-1
  • No. 26 Myers Park def. No. 10 Weddington, 1-0
  • No. 2 Hough def. No. 15 East Forsyth, 6-0

OTHER GAMES OF INTEREST:

  • 3A: No. 1 Hibriten def. No. 16 Crest, 7-0
  • 3A: No. 5 Hickory def. No. 12 Asheboro, 7-0
  • 2A: No. 3 Wilkes Central def. No. 14 Forbush, 2-1

 

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