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KINSTON — Clang! Clang! Clang!
The warning sirens, masquerading as posts, began to sound in alarming fashion for the weary Wilson Christian varsity girls soccer team late in the first half of Saturday’s North Carolina Christian School Association 2-A girls soccer championship with Alamance Christian.
Perhaps, if five to 10 minutes remained, the Lady Chargers would have found a way to protect a one-goal lead and win their second state title in the last three seasons.
However, at the time of the first salvo off the post from Alamance Christian’s Amber Pickett, 55 seconds remained in the first half. Wilson Christian’s midfield, which has been stout all season, began to show signs of fatigue and the wear and tear associated with grinding to a championship match. As the Alamance pressure intensified again at the start of the second half, two more shots rang off the crossbar in the 46th minute — another from Pickett and a quick follow that rifled out of play for a goal kick.
Just 30 seconds later, the sirens stopped. The reckoning arrived in the form of Victoria Briggs, whose finish off a give-and-go inside the box was the start of two goals within a 41-second span that produced Alamance’s fifth championship in six years with a 2-1 victory on the campus of Bethel Christian.
Wilson Christian, which interrupted the string with a 4-3, four-overtime victory in 2017 on its home field, ended its year at 13-5-1. Alamance, coached by the retiring Bob LaTour in his final game at the school, finished 12-2.
The Lady Chargers defeated Alamance 3-1 in an early season contest on their home field. But this backdrop was different in front of a blistering Lenoir County sun. Once the Lady Chargers conceded the quality-of-play advantage shortly after freshman Reagan Barnes sent a chip shot over the keeper in the 24th minute, it was never regained. Barnes’ effort was the only attempt on frame all day for Wilson Christian, which was held without any looks on the Alamance net in the second half.
“We’ve been beat up for weeks trying to manage injuries,” Wilson Christian head coach Don Samson said. “They caught us when we just had nothing. They played their game and they played it well, and they found us in a gap where we had nothing.”
With the likes of juniors Lydia Renfrow and Ashley Hartsfield playing through injury, the Lady Chargers couldn’t escape Saturday’s match without more bumps and bruises. Junior Kristen Reece had to be helped to the sideline in the 16th minute, while sophomore Lea Gossett, who missed all of last season with injury, went down with just over 16 minutes remaining and limped off.
Alamance, which entered the match with injury issues of its own, set the physical tone and prevailed with such.
“We know that’s how they play,” Samson said. “There’s only so much that you can avoid that stuff, but it is what it is. Our girls gave it everything they had, and I was proud of that.”
The Lady Chargers were held to four total shots and were kept in range of an equalizer late due to first-year goalkeeper Christy Jones, who finished with 10 saves. With numbers pushed forward, Jones stuffed a shot from close range off the foot of Maddie Brown, keeping it at 2-1 with just over four minutes remaining.
LaTour noted the strength of WCA’s midfield and the role his defense played in siphoning off its facilitation.
“That is key,” LaTour said. “I told my girls, you realize in six games, Wilson generated 51 goals. So I’m saying, if you keep them out of the net, that’s going to build. We tried to, but I tell you, Maddie Varga marked No. 20 (Gossett). I thought she did outstanding, because that gal is good.”
The game winner for Alamance came off a breakdown in the Wilson Christian defensive third. Less than a minute after giving up the tying goal, Charlotte Ward gathered the loose ball and slotted it high over Jones, providing the final margin.
Wilson Christian saw its eight-member senior class — Caitlyn Barnes, Mckaylah Collins, Ashley Hardy, Brenda Reece, Skylar Pone, Jones, Sydney Strother and Jenna Varnell play their final game.
Gossett, Renfrow and Varnell were named NCSCA All-State, with Barnes, Hartsfield and Jones getting all-region honors.
“We do lean on certain players,” Jones said. “But in the end, we all play as a team and I’m proud of us for that. I’m glad that we did lean on the players that we should have and we ended up playing our best. We gave it all we’ve got.”