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Western girls fall, 4-3, in shootout after 4-overtime regional soccer game

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By Bob Sutton

Special to The Alamance News

As difficult and grueling as it was to make it through 110 minutes of game time in the Class 3-A East Region final, it was more excruciating for the Western Alamance girls’ soccer team in the aftermath.

In what was the finest season in program history, it ended in a cruel way Tuesday night at Elon University’s Rudd Field.

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“We worked as hard as we could,” senior Trinity Robinson said. “We definitely deserved it, just unlucky.”

After neither team scored, second-seeded Jacksonville and top-seeded Western determined which team would advance to the state championship game in a penalty-kick shootout. The Cardinals prevailed 4-3, and what had been a spirited atmosphere turned almost silent at the Western end.

It was an endurance test – heightened for the Warriors who played down a player beginning late in regulation – that consumed just a few minutes shy of three hours.

“Obviously, everyone is really upset,” Western coach Camden Brooks said. “These girls have to reflect on what they did. Think about the impact that you made.”

That didn’t stop the tears being shed or the anguish.

Western ended the season with a 22-1-2 record.

Jacksonville had more scoring chances throughout the game, but the Warriors cut off shooting angles and freshman goalkeeper Camden Markey was up to the task.

The chore became heavier for the Warriors with senior defender Abigail Lush issued a red card with 4:02 left in regulation. For the first time this season, Western was forced to play short-handed.

“They did a great job to withstand everything that we could throw at them,” Jacksonville coach Amanda Pelch said.

It meant a form of survival for the Warriors, who shifted formations and aligned normal offensive players to assist with defensive duties to navigate what became 34-plus minutes of game time down a player.

“We know they had an incredible team,” Brooks said. “We had to play for (the shootout).”

Yet with about 40 seconds remaining in the second overtime, Western’s Cana Kaffenberger controlled the ball with a burst down the left side and into the box. A pile-up of players dashed that opportunity.

“To be able to hold our own against them is a really big accomplishment,” Robinson said.

Overtime consisted of two 10-minute sessions followed by two 5-minute periods. Then it was off to a five-round shootout.

Jacksonville’s Macey Helmstetter, Landyn Wessels, Azumi Oka and MacKenzie Morrow were good on their shootout attempts. Robinson had her kick blocked by Cardinals goalkeeper Reagan Donnelly before Alison Thomas, Callie Athas, and Emma Gryniewski converted and Amelia Weaver shot high.

Jacksonville (19-1-4), which lost in last year’s regional final to eventual champion Eastern Alamance, will meet South Point (19-2-2) for the title Saturday afternoon at the Mecklenburg County Sportsplex in Matthews.

As the teams lined up for the postgame regional trophy presentation Tuesday night, a Western fan shouted “Pick your heads up” to encourage the Warriors.

Senior Mia Sodano, who sat out the season with a torn knee ligament, said the Warriors will understand what has been achieved.

“We got really blessed with the freshmen we had,” Sodano said. “I’m so happy with what we did, and it’s so sad to let it go. I’m really proud.”

Brooks, who guided Western’s boys’ soccer team to the 2021 state title, finished his third season coaching the girls.

“Every single season it has gotten so much better,” he said. “I think we just scratched the surface.”

The West Region final between second-seeded North Davidson and fourth-seeded South Point, which lost to Eastern Alamance in last year’s championship game, also went to a shootout after it was tied 1-1. South Central advanced by 7-6.

  • Thomas and Robinson scored goals as Western Alamance pulled out a 2-1 victory against Wilson Hunt in last Thursday night’s fourth-round game at Rudd Field.

Robinson and Athas both had an assist. Markey was charted with nine saves.

Fourth-seeded Wilson Hunt (18-5-1) led 1-0 until the Warriors knotted the score late in the first half.

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