Upset of Lake Norman Charter has SHS soccer in 3rd round

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 21, 2014

SALISBURY — Soccer standout Kate Grant got caught in a lie, but the Salisbury senior is pretty happy about it.
“Before we played South Stokes in the first round, I was telling everyone, ‘Well, this is the last time I’ll get to wear this jersey,’” Grant said with a smile. “So now everybody’s having a good time telling me what a liar I am.”
Grant had every reason to believe she was performing her home curtain call last week, but she’ll get to pull on her white SHS No. 21 jersey again tonight. The Hornets (15-3-1) play at Ludwig Stadium at 6 p.m. against Forbush (17-4-1) in the third round of the 2A state playoffs.
Wearing its black road jerseys, Salisbury prevailed Saturday at Lake Norman Charter in a heated, second-rounder. That road victory coupled with No. 13 seed Forbush’s road triumph at No. 4 seed Franklin means the 12th-seeded Hornets are back home tonight.
The Lake Norman Charter win was No. 150 at the helm of the SHS girls for English teacher/coach Matt Parrish, who has piloted Salisbury’s boys to two state titles.
“None of those 150 have been bigger than Saturday’s,” Parrish said. “I looked up the win total before the season because people needed that information and saw I was at 135. Looking at our schedule, I thought there was a chance at 150 this year, but then we lost five games to weather, and it didn’t look like it would happen. I got a lot of congratulatory texts from parents Saturday telling me how happy they were that the girls pulled one out for me.”
The Hornets did pull one out, even though 99 percent of the world thought Parrish would be taking inventory Monday instead of riding a tractor and getting the field ready for another playoff game.
“Ledford’s coach Scott Dalton told me a long time ago that schools like Ledford and Salisbury have limited resources going up against the real soccer powers,” Parrish explained. “He said the best way to measure yourself was try to be the best locally, try to be the best in your county and in your conference, and if anything ever happened beyond that, well, that was pretty great. That’s always stayed with me, and I can appreciate that on Saturday, our girls won a game beyond local. Now we’re the last team standing in our county and in our conference — and in our region. There’s nobody left but us.”
Salisbury is a team comprised mostly of gritty seniors and talented freshmen. The Hornets, runners-up in the CCC, had not won a playoff game since 2011, so there were sighs of relief when freshman Katie Bullock’s goal lifted the Hornets to a 1-0 win over South Stokes in the first round.
The final chapter of this season was supposed to be written Saturday. Lake Norman Charter is a soccer machine. It won the 1A state title in 2013 and entered the Salisbury game 72-12-5 over the last four seasons and with the goal-scorers from its 2013 team still piling up hat tricks. While LNC was seeded fifth for the playoffs, it was ranked second in 2A.
“Thery have a soccer culture at Lake Norman Charter,” Parrish said. “Extremely well-coached and two All-State caliber players. Even in warmups, you could tell they were different from anyone we’d played. I don’t know. Maybe they looked at us and took us for granted a little bit. But (freshman) Nellie Brown and (senior) Susannah Dixon did a great job marking their scorers and their starting goalkeeper didn’t play. We stayed level with them early, and the longer it stayed 0-0, the more our confidence grew.”
Freshman sensation Ceci Cardelle set up Grant for a goal that put the Hornets ahead 1-0.
“We were outgunned,” Grant said. “They were the more talented team, but we knew we had a chance if we made up our minds to outwork them.”
At Salisbury’s Monday practice, the bubbly Dixon cheerfully showed off the bruises from her part in Saturday’s drama. She got tackled hard, kicked above her shinguards by the girl she was defending.
“I’ve known her (Riley Kane) a long time, even played travel ball with her, went to Vegas with her,” Dixon said. “It was frustration, I guess, because we were ahead. She’s used to scoring four goals a game and wasn’t used to having someone defending her who could match her speed and was going to stay in her grill.”
When Dixon was tackled, she stayed down. She anchors Salisbury’s defense, and Parrish knew the game had changed.
“That’s our go-to girl, a tough girl,” Parrish said. “When she got up, you could tell she was determined not to cry, but her eyes were glimmering. She came out, and if she comes out, you know she’s hurt.”
Senior Ashlyn Heidt fills in the gaps for the Hornets. She handled Dixon’s center back duties, and midfielder Grant started focusing all her energy on defense.
“It was scary without Susannah out there,” said Heidt, who has come back from a torn ACL as a junior as well as a broken foot that kept her out almost a month earlier this season. “All I was thinking was to keep clearing the ball, just keep clearing it.”
The Hornets would play 20 minutes without Dixon.
When Emma Labovitz was fouled in the box with 10 minutes left, Salisbury was awarded a PK. Parrish designated a surprised Heidt to take it.
“I was like, ‘Is he really calling my name?’” Heidt said. “But I was pretty confident — and I made it.”
Now it was 2-0, but it became 2-1 with six minutes left after the Hornets’ freshman goalkeeper Juliana Anderson was given a stalling penalty and Lake Norman Charter converted off an indirect kick.
Dixon returned to the field for the stretch run.
“I told her if she could walk, she had to play, and she did,” Parrish said.
Dixon had a deep bone bruise, but she jogged on the sideline, said she could go, and toughed it out.
“Sure, it hurt,” Dixon said. “But I knew losing would hurt more.”
Cardelle’s ballhandling skills helped the Hornets kill the clock. Cardelle can be a one-girl “Four Corners” when asked, and Salisbury held on to win a match Parrish described as the “biggest in program history.”
His players didn’t disagree.
“I’ve played better individually,” Grant said. “But collectively, as a team, this was the best match we’ve ever played. We played like we were crazy.”
The Hornets, ranked eighth in 2A, will be outgunned again tonight. Forbush, ranked fifth, is a perennial power. Forbush is 15-2 in its last 17, with both losses coming to top-ranked West Stokes.
“Whatever happens, these girls can be proud of their season,” Parrish said. “I’ve had more complete teams, more talented teams. But as far as guts, as far as commitment, this team has given me all it has.”
Stay tuned. When girls are willing to play like crazy people, you never know.