Booting up some revenge

Lady Chargers kick Alamance Christian 3-1 in NCCSA 2-A title rematch

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Two weeks ago, Wilson Christian senior Christy Jones would have appeared out of place on a soccer field, instead suiting up on the adjoining softball diamond as the Lady Chargers seek to continue their railroading, dominant ways as the queens of North Carolina Christian School Association fast pitch.

But she’s still chasing state championships, albeit without the presence of dirt and on a new patch of grass. Tuesday night, the high school soccer rookie looked anything but the part against an Alamance Christian team that has quickly become Wilson Christian’s chief rival across more than one sport.

Jones helped repel an increasing Alamance Christian attack before halftime to leave the match scoreless, and the Lady Chargers’ offense came alive in the second half as WCA claimed a 3-1 victory in a rematch of the last two NCCSA 2-A girls soccer championships.

Behind seven total saves from Jones, Wilson Christian, who defeated Alamance in overtime for the 2017 2-A title, evened its early season record at 2-2. Alamance Christian, which returned the favor last season in the title match, traveled to Wilson only to drop its season opener.

“Especially for a girl who didn’t play soccer until two weeks ago, she’s picked it up really quick,” Wilson Christian head coach Don Samson said. “I think she’s having fun.”

However, that fun came under increasing duress as the first half proceeded. Wilson Christian was limited to just one shot not in the run of play, and Alamance steadily built its possession advantage and increased the attack. However, quality opportunities in the 27th and 35th minutes went without a goal, and the Lady Chargers made it to halftime with a scoreless ledger.

“I used to play softball, but I quit because I had two other seasons, and it was just busy, busy, busy,” Jones explained. “But they needed a goalie, and I talked to some of the team and I talked to Mr. Samson. They convinced me I should play. And I like it so far. So here I am!”

As the defense stretched but didn’t break, the offense of the Lady Chargers produced in the second half.

As Wilson Christian enjoyed a moment of sustained possession in its offensive third, junior captain Lydia Renfrow spotted a small sliver of an opening in the 43rd minute. Catching Alamance keeper Mellany Daugherty briefly unprepared, Renfrow unleashed a chip shot off the left wing designed to get over her head. While Daugherty wasn’t grossly off her line, the moment of decisiveness proved fruitful for the Lady Chargers, as the ball slid under the crossbar and sent the emotional flow of the match squarely to the home sideline.

WCA quickly assumed a two-goal lead in the 44th minute, increasing its attack and drawing a handball in the box on Alamance defender Hannah Ingle. Sophomore Lea Gossett approached the mark and drove it low into the left corner, putting the Lady Chargers up 2-0 with 36:08 to play.

“I didn’t exactly think it was going in,” Renfrow said of WCA’s opening goal. “But it was an open ball, and we needed shots on goal. So, I just did what I could.”

Added Samson: “Lydia’s incredibly smart. She doesn’t like credit for anything, but she is. She’s really smart, and to put us on the board there I think got everyone else relaxed, and they went for it.”

A fleeting moment of flashback to the 2017 championship match surfaced in the 66th minute. Alamance’s Amber Pickett received a pass in the box, and stuck it by Jones to reduce the WCA lead to a single goal. Wilson Christian had to survive a three-goal rally from Alamance before claiming the title two years ago, and for a moment, celebrations were premature.

“We were up 2-0, and one of the girls started celebrating,” Samson said. “And I said, no. They’ve come back from 3-0. So we just needed to stay in it and stay steady. When they brought it back within one, we got a little nervous. But the girls stayed steady, settled in and really finished out.”

The insurance goal came with 6:36 to go. Off a throw-in from junior Ashley Hartsfield, the ball reached sophomore Lindsay Hunter in the box, who sent it past the line for the final margin.

Wilson Christian pulled away in the second half despite being outshot 16-6 and putting just its two goals on frame. The Lady Chargers were steadied under pressure at various intervals from Jones, senior center back Jenna Varnell, junior Kristen Reece and senior Caitlyn Barnes, the latter excelling at sweeping the ball out of danger from the inner channels.

Wilson Christian will visit Forbes Field on Thursday to battle Greenfield.

“It was definitely our best game,” Renfrow said. “We haven’t been consistent, but this game was definitely our best, and we pushed through as much as we could.”