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Falcons’ season ends in playoffs

By David Shaw

dshaw@salisburypost.com

MT. ULLA — File this under “News West Rowan Fans Didn’t Want To Hear.”

After racing through the season, the Falcons’ girls soccer team was handed its walking papers Wednesday night.

“It wasn’t a disappointing season,” coach Nick Brown told his team after Northwest Cabarrus dealt West a season-ending 1-0 loss in the first round of the 3A state playoffs. “But it was a disappointing game.”

It was. West (17-4), a team that won its first 15 matches and was ranked as high as No. 2 in the state poll, finished its year on a three-game losing streak with a loss to a team it defeated in March. And though the Falcons outshot the visiting Trojans 20-5, they had only one true scoring opportunity — when Toni Lucente’s sharp grounder from close range was muffled by NWC defender McKenzie Siner early in the second half. It was a watershed moment for a defense that played its disruptive best.

“We’ve done that on a number of occasions this year,” winning coach Harald von Klahr said after Northwest (12-5-3) advanced to Saturday’s second round. “We have to frustrate and defend, then pick and choose when we want to attack.”

Northwest scored the only goal on a bizarre play with 11 minutes remaining in the first half. Midfielder Morgan Holbrook chased down a loose ball near the end line just left of the WR cage and chipped a soft, arching shot that eluded West keeper Joana Samano and settled in the net.

“I’m pretty sure she meant to cross that ball,” said Lucente, the senior forward who finished a scrapbook-filled career with 103 goals. “She was right on the end line. I don’t think she was shooting.”

Regardless, the goal put West in an unfamiliar hole. It was forced to rally from behind without the services of injured striker Mariah Coleman, a 22-goal scorer who missed the game with a right high ankle sprain suffered in a May 1 loss to J.M. Robinson.

“She was a major part of our attack,” said teammate Kayla Boley, another senior who played her final match. “I would have loved to have gone into the playoffs full force. But without her, some underclassmen had to step up.”

With Coleman chained to the bench, Brown dusted off infantrymen Victoria Patterson and Mikayla Graham — both freshmen — and sent them to the front.

“As far as our game plan, we did everything we wanted to do,” Brown said. “We just didn’t put the ball in the back of the net. Obviously we missed Mariah. That was a big factor. We run most of our offense through her. I’m not using that as an excuse, but it was a factor.”

So was Northwest’s smothering defense. “We had this goal to be on them as soon as they touched the ball,” said NWC senior Skylar Olson. “It was just get the ball outta there, kick-and-run. It’s ugly, but it’s the way we have to play.”

The guests amplified that effort after taking the lead. West continued to pound the zone in the second half, misfiring on shots from all angles and distances. Missing-in-action was West’s precise, tic-tac-toe passing game.

“At times it seemed like six of them against three of us back there,” said Lucente. “Just no room. There were a lot of things that didn’t go right for us tonight. We had an amazing season — conference champs for the third time. But one disappointing game cost us our season.”

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