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Defending state champ Eagles pick up pace as state soccer playoffs begin

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By Bob Sutton

Special to The Alamance News

Eastern Alamance’s girls’ soccer team picked an ideal time to produce one of its best halves of the season.

Opening the Class 3-A state playoffs as defending champions, the Eagles showed flashes of that title form by pouncing on visiting Orange for a 5-1 victory Monday night.

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“The playoff environment really motivates us,” said Eastern’s Abby Brinker, who scored three goals and assisted on two goals. “We want to do what we’ve done in the past and get to the state championship.”

Eastern’s Abby Brinker heading a ball into the goal.

The Eagles have played in the past two state finals. They showed glimpses of that ability as they embarked on what they hope is another extended journey.

“We played as well as we have all year the first half,” first-year Eastern coach Shawn Gibbs said. “This is the time to do it.”

Eastern (11-6-1) heads to second-seeded Jacksonville (15-1-4) for Thursday night’s second-round game. The teams will meet for the third year in a row in the state playoffs, with the Eagles winning the past two. That included last year’s East Region final in Mebane.

“There is pressure on our backs,” senior Ainsley Dial said. “There’s pressure because we made it all the way last year.”

The Orange/Eastern matchup was between Central 3-A Conference teams that had split two one-goal results during the regular season.

This one didn’t stay close after Brinker scored slightly more than 10 minutes into the game.

About 80 seconds later, Brinker made a move down the right side and teammate Lilly Massey was waiting near the left post, knocking in Brinker’s pass for a 2-0 lead.

The Eagles kept going with Ryen Gibbs scoring off a Brinker pass, making it three goals in a span of less than seven minutes.

“When we move the ball like that, there’s not anybody we can’t beat,” Brinker said.

Brinker caught the Panthers by surprise later in the first half, drilling in a free kick. About 3½ minutes into the second half, Brinker scored on a header off a delivery from Meredith Doi.

If there was a downside, Dial (knee) and Brinker (ankle) were off the field for the last 26-plus minutes because of injuries. Both players said they’ll be ready for Round 2.

Coach Gibbs said Doi’s ability to adjust to moving to the center back position has been a key for the Eagles in recent weeks.

Orange (9-6-2) lost only two of its last seven games, with both defeats to Eastern. Ella Wimsatt scored for the Panthers with less than 11 minutes remaining.

Eastern had topped Orange 3-2 five nights earlier on the same field to seal second place in the league.

Jacksonville’s first-round result was a 13-0 handling of Smithfield-Selma.

 

  • Western Alamance, the top-seeded team in the East Region, defeated rival Williams 6-2 in another first-round game featuring Central 3-A Conference teams Monday night.

Mia Napier had two goals and an assist for the Warriors (19-0-2). Callie Athas, Alison Thomas, Cana Kaffenberger and Abigail Lush recorded the other goals.

Williams (6-10-1) received one goal apiece from Olivia Vandre and Emma Traumuller.

Western meets another Central 3-A Conference member in Thursday night’s second round. No. 16 seed Cedar Ridge (14-6-1) will visit the Warriors after defeating No. 17 seed Richlands 3-1.

It will be the last game on Western’s campus this season, even though the Warriors could have three more designated home games. Because of renovations to the stadium’s track, the field won’t be available. Any other home games in the playoffs will take place at Elon University’s Rudd Field. The third round is scheduled for Monday night.

  • Southern Alamance, the 30th seed, made the short trip to third-seeded Carrboro, which rolled to a 9-0 victory. Carrboro (20-2) has surrendered only three goals during a 14-game winning streak. Southern finished with a 10-11 record.

 

Class 2-A

Southeast Alamance continued the first-year school’s trend of postseason success by winning 2-0 at 15th-seeded Farmville Central (9-3-1).

Yanella Lopez scored both goals for No. 18 seed Southeast, which has a four-game winning streak. Nadia Navarro and Carson Story had assists.

The Stallions (12-8) go on the road again, visiting defending state champion Manteo (15-2-1), the No. 2 seed, on Thursday night. Manteo blew past South Columbus 9-0 in the first round.

 

Class 1-A

No. 14 seed River Mill and No. 15 seed Clover Garden began with home games after finishing in second and third place, respectively, in the Central Tar Heel 1-A Conference. They had opposite results.

River Mill notched a 2-0 victory against East Columbus (7-7-1). Next, the Jaguars (11-8) will visit third-seeded Lejeune (14-1-1).

Clover Garden (10-9) lost by 3-0 to No. 18 seed North Moore (5-10-2).


Eastern game photos courtesy of Alan Pennington.

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