Crusaders roll into CCC soccer final
On a cool, damp afternoon with a steady drizzle, the Grace Christian varsity men’s soccer team stepped on the field to begin, in earnest, its quest of claiming its first NCISAA 1A State Soccer Championship.
On Thursday at Lee Christian, the Crusaders faced No. 4 seed Northwood Temple in the semifinals of the Carolina Christian Conference Tournament. Winning the CCC Tournament - for the second year in a row - would give Grace Christian (22-2-1) an automatic bid to the state tournament and, more than likely, the No. 1 overall seed.
The first order of business for the Crusaders was to beat the Eagles, which they did easily in a 10-1 abbreviated match victory.
Grace Christian wasted little time before scoring the first goal. In the second minute of play, Jose Leonidez assisted on Zach Boggs’ goal.
The Crusaders dominated in time of possession for the match and they never backed away from their aggressive style of play.
In the fifth minute of play, the Crusaders found the back of the net again on a Sergio Charca goal that was assisted, one again, by Jose Leonidez.
Five minutes later, Jose Leonidez scored on an assist from older brother, Salvador Leonidez, to stake the Crusaders to a 3-0 lead in less than 10 minutes of play.
Then, something unusual happened. The Crusaders conceded a goal to Northwood Temple in the 12th minute of play, snapping a streak of 11 straight shutouts. The Crusaders already have a school record of 17 shutouts for the season.
It didn’t take Grace Christian long to answer the Eagle goal. Jose Leonidez scored his second goal of the match from an Evan Kannarr assist in the 16th minute, giving the Crusaders a 4-l lead.
From there, Grace Christian played like they were losing and by halftime, the Crusaders led 7-1.
After only nine minutes of play in the second half, the match was halted due to the mercy rule when Grace Christian scored its 10th goal, giving the Crusaders a nine-goal lead.
Ricardo Castaneda scored a hat trick with goals in the 35th, 40th, and 49th minutes.
Joe Urrutia, Matt Russell and Nathan Holt each recorded a goal.
Jose Leonidez ended the match with three assists. Kannarr had two assists, as did Victor Mondragon. Russell and Sam Holt contributed an assist, also.
The Crusaders face the No. 2 seed, Trinity Academy, at 4 p.m. Friday in the CCC Tournament final at Lee Christian. Grace Christian beat Trinity Academy during the regular season by a 4-1 score, the only loss for Trinity Academy in conference play.
In the CCC volleyball tournament later Thursday evening at Lee Christian, the host Lady Falcons fell in four sets to top-seeded Cresset Christian, 25-19, 25-9, 23-25, 25-15.
One of Lee Christian’s best players, Kelsey Clayton, was forced out of the match when she twisted her knee early in the first set and was unable to return.
The Lady Falcons (7-6 overall) have a chance of receiving a bid to the NCISAA 1A State Tournament, but they will have to wait until next week when the selection committee choses the teams that will participate.