SOUTHERN PINES — The Richmond girls soccer team may have had its seven-game win streak snapped with the loss to Pinecrest on Friday, but head coach Bennie Howard walked away with a smile on this face.
Sophomore defender Avy Lucero and junior midfielder Emily Parsons each netted a goal to help the Lady Raiders avoid getting shutout again — they lost by mercy rule twice in the regular season — and sophomore goalie Allexis Swiney made save after save to keep the Lady Patriots from scoring any more goals in the final stretch of the match.
Pinecrest’s speed was too much, however, and it went on to claim the Sandhills Athletic Conference Tournament championship — adding on to its regular season title — with a 7-2 victory over Richmond.
“We gave the best effort we could. We didn’t give up,” Howard said. “If we play hard, I can deal with that. I get upset when we lose and we don’t give any effort … But we gave effort tonight, so I’ve got a smile on my face as I’m headed home.”
Richmond (17-5) played solid defense to start the game, containing the home team’s shot-on-goal numbers for the first 15 minutes, but Pinecrest (22-1-3) stayed persistent and cracked open a lead that it was able to hold on to for the rest of the night.
Howard said the two of the first three goals his team gave up were due to mistakes in the back of the defense.
With about a minute left in the opening half, the Lady Raiders finally got the scoreboard — their first goal against Pinecrest this season — after junior midfielder Jayana Nicholson was fouled while driving into the box.
Lucero converted the penalty kick and Richmond trailed 5-1 heading into the break.
Not even 90 seconds into the second half, Pinecrest nets its sixth goal of the match. Seven minutes later, it scores again on a rebound after Swiney made a diving save. Senior forward Molly Niewald recorded a hat trick for the Lady Pats.
The Lady Raiders tacked on their last goal after Parsons gained control inside the box and “ripped the ball near post.”
“We played very well,” Howard said. “We’ll regroup, get ready for Monday and go from there.”
Richmond will now wait to see where it will be placed in the NCHSAA 4A State Playoffs Brackets. Howard says he’s going to push for the team to play on Wednesday, which gives it time to rest as well as prepare for what will more than likely be a new opponent.
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. by phone at 910-817-2673 or by email at [email protected] For stories, scores and updates, follow the Daily Journal’s sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.