After not winning a postseason game since 2003, Carroll County’s girls’ soccer team has now tasted success in the playoffs two straight years.
The Cavaliers, who defeated William Fleming 10-0 in last year’s Conference 24 Quarterfinals, followed it up May 22 with a 3-1 victory over Pulaski County in another Conference 24 Quarterfinal in Hillsville. Adrienne Harris scored two goals and added an assist as Carroll County (5-11) advanced to a May 23 conference semifinal at Salem.
“It is nice two years in a row now that the girls have done something that hasn’t been done here in a long time. It’s nice to be able to host a playoff game two years in a row, to be a solid four seed in the conference we are in,” Carroll County head coach Marion Harris said. “We’ve got good teams in our conference. It’s nice to be able to still be playing and I just hope everybody can stay focused for another game, and hopefully another few games.”
The Cavaliers took control of the contest with two goals in the first seven minutes of action. Kaylei Newman got it started after taking a pass from Adrienne Harris. Newman adjusted to the long pass, which originally looked as if it had been stopped by the Pulaski County goalie. The Cougars’ keeper couldn’t hang on to the ball and fell down, however, allowing Newman to slip by her for an easy score and a 1-0 lead in the game’s fifth minute.
Just two minutes later, Newman returned the favor with an assist to Adrienne Harris. Harris appeared to be set up for a one-on-one play with the Pulaski goalie before the two collided. The ball popped up high in the air and Harris was able to beat another Cougars’ defender with the ball right at the net for a 2-0 Cavaliers’ advantage.
The score stayed at 2-0 for the rest of the first half and much of the second. Pulaski got on the board in the 60th minute after a defensive miscue by Carroll.
“It was our third time playing them, which scared me. Playing any team three times in one season, you really know each other,” Marion Harris said. “We didn’t come out as strong in the second half and they got behind the defense for a goal. They had a couple more chances, but our keeper, Autumn Gravley, had some really nice stops. She came off the line a couple of times and denied them.”
The Cavs got the goal back about five minutes later thanks to great teamwork. Gracie Puckett made an aggressive play at midfield to jar the ball loose and into the direction of Megan Garland. Garland, in turn, sent a long pass to Adrienne Harris, who juked two Pulaski defenders before putting a left-footed shot over the keeper and just under the crossbar.
“If not for Gracie’s aggressive play, it wouldn’t have dribbled off Megan the way it did, so I kind of gave them both assists on that,” Marion Harris said.
Carroll held on to lead down the stretch to preserve the victory and set up the conference semifinal matchup at top-seeded Salem. Harris said a big factor in his team’s success this year has been its defense.
“We went from giving up over 100 goals last year to giving up 59 goals this season,” he said. “That was a big key for us, the way our team defense has stepped up this year.”