Crusade reaches state final four
Grace Christian's girls soccer team earned its first trip to the NCISAA state semifinals with a 2-0 victory over visiting Wayne Country Day Tuesday afternoon.
The win wasn't easy, fitting of setting a new program standard. The Lady Crusaders (17-1-1) knew going into the match, though, it was going to be a challenge.
In the last week of the regular season, the Lady Crusaders traveled to Wayne Country Day and came back with a scoreless draw. A couple weeks later, the No. 3-seeded Lady Crusaders needed patience and steady attacking to finally put the ball in the net a couple of times.
Playing most of the 80 minutes with two well-organized lines of four, four midfielders and four backs, largely staying conservative, the No. 6 Lady Chargers (9-4-3) kept the match within reach.
"They (Wayne Country Day) don't give up goals," said Grace Christian head coach Chris Pratt.
"We got lucky with the first goal, but at the same time, we were doing a good job of applying a lot of pressure," he said.
The Lady Crusaders had taken a few long-range shots toward goal and had most of the possession but didn't break through until a chance from nothing a little more than 30 minutes in.
On a long boot out of the Grace Christian half, a defender deflected the ball but it got by her with Charity Taylor and Torie Boyte giving chase into the Lady Charger box. Taylor touched the ball by the keeper and a Charger defender, trying to clear from a stride or two off the line, put the ball in the net for an own goal.
Grace Christian had a 10-2 advantage in overall shots, but only the 1-0 lead, at halftime.
Madison Bolen, Grace Christian's freshman leading scorer, created, then struck, for the second Lady Crusader goal.
Bolen's athleticism on the dribble kept a Crusader attack going, then drew a foul, just outside the left side of the penalty box. From a narrow angle on the free kick, Bolen sent an arced shot over the keeper and inside the far top corner.
"It was an unbelievable free kick," Pratt said.
"Anytime you've got someone like Madison, who can hit a shot like that, it's a game-changer. That goal relieved a lot of pressure," he said.
The 2-0 lead proved enough for the Lady Crusaders for the last 34 minutes. Grace Christian's defense allowed four shots on goal and substitute goalkeeper Karinda Farrant made the saves she had to.
Farrant was visibly wincing and hobbling from an injury she picked up Monday in practice, said Pratt. Farrant took up the starting keeper duties when starter Victoria Druther suffered an ACL injury in a game on April 24.
The Lady Crusaders finished with 15 shots overall and nine shots on goal.
Grace Christian will face the winner of No. 10 Trinity Academy vs. No. 2 Statesville Christian in a semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday at Community Christian in Wilson. The state final is set for 4 p.m. Saturday at Community Christian.