Grace Christian tops Lee Christian for CCC title
Grace Christian’s girls soccer team won its first-ever conference tournament championship on Saturday in an All-Sanford clash for the Carolina Christian Conference tournament title, beating Lee Christian 6-3 in the final hosted by Wayne Christian School.
The Lady Crusaders, the No. 3 seed, and the Lady Falcons, the No. 4 seed, pulled off upsets to reach the championship. Grace Christian beat Community Christian, No. 6 in the state in NCISAA 1A, 4-3 in overtime on Thursday. Lee Christian blanked top-seeded Trinity Academy 3-0 turning around a loss to Trinity from the opening day of Lee Christian’s season.
Two minutes into the championship game, Lady Crusader Charity Taylor dribbled down the left flank of the field. After beating several defenders, she rocketed a shot into the upper corner of the goal to make it 1-0.“I told Charity that goal was the difference maker,” said Grace Christian head coach Chris Pratt. “Any time you can score that early, it gives you an advantage.”
Four minutes later, Madison Bolen fired and scored with a shot from 28 yards out for a 2-0 Grace lead.
The Lady Falcons found a lot of energy and controlled much of the next 20 minutes of the game, pushing the play into Grace’s defensive half.
Lee Christian got on the board in the 10th minute with Whitney O’Quinn, the new Lady Falcon career goal record-holder, hitting the back of the net.
With the Lady Falcons continuing to put the pressure on, the Lady Crusaders struck on a counterattack. Torie Boyte finished a breakaway, set up by a pass from Bolen, to make it 3-1.
With 10 seconds remaining in the half, O’Quinn scored her second goal of the match for a 3-2 Grace Christian lead at halftime.
“I was very disappointed that we gave that second goal up,” said Pratt. “We had all the momentum and it was taken from us. I give Lee (Christian) a lot of credit because that was one hungry team who really wanted to win. They played with a lot of heart.”
Grace Christian regained a two-goal margin quickly into the second half. The Lady Crusaders earned a penalty kick from a handball call and Bolen scored from the spot.
Bolen assisted to Boyte again for a goal in the 69th minute. Three minutes later, Bolen scored off a 24-yard free kick giving Grace Christian a 6-2 lead.
Makaila Gillum scored for the Lady Falcons in the 79th minute making it 6-3.
O’Quinn earned Most Outstanding Player for the tournament. O’Quinn has committed to play soccer and basketball at William Peace University in Raleigh starting in the fall.
Bolen, an eighth-grader, was named Tournament MVP. Grace Christian’s Boyte, Elisa Carver, Kaycee Murr and goalkeeper Sarah Beard made the All-Tournament Team as did Lee Christian’s Lauren Lane and Gillum.
For the Carolina Christian season awards, O’Quinn, Bolen and Boyte made the CCC First Team. Gillum and Carver made Second Team. Beard and Lane made Honorable Mention.
Both Grace Christian (12-8-2) and Lee Christian (8-8) await their seeds for the NCISAA 1A State Tournament. The tournament field will be released Wednesday with first-round matches set for Friday or Saturday.
Grace Christian has set program records this season for shutouts (6), goals (82) and wins in a season (12).
“The great thing about this team is their belief in each other and our system,” said Pratt. “These ladies believed they could accomplish a lot this season and they have.
“We are a VERY young team, but our girls believe that we can play with anyone,” Pratt said. “I am excited to see what happens in the state tournament.”