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Cougars get win

CHINA GROVE — Justin Buckwalter and Carson’s boys soccer team have opened the season with three straight brand-name wins. But there is no need to remind them.
The Cougars don’t have that warm-and-fuzzy feeling you’d expect from a team residing in a new, upscale neighborhood.
“This is the worst 3-0 feeling,” Buckwalter said Tuesday, moments after Carson outlasted visiting Lake Norman, 4-3. “Because each game we’ve just been hanging on. We still haven’t played to our full potential.”
Carson earned the win by defending like banshees over the final 25 minutes against the previously unbeaten and unscored upon Wildcats (3-1).
“We had to,” said senior back Fidel Flores. “We gave them the ball so many times and they were coming straight at us. We got very tired of chasing the ball around, getting to it — and then, here they come again.”
The Cougars, who launch their Southern Piedmont schedule Thursday at home against Cox Mill, prevailed thanks largely to the diving save sophomore keeper Grayson Owens made in the waning seconds.
Lake Norman held a shot advantage over Carson in each half and outshot the Cougars 17-11.
“We made them play a lot of defense in the second half,” Lake Norman coach Ryan Villiard said. “The difference was they responded quickly not once, but twice after we had scored.”
Carson opened the scoring in the ninth minute when sniper Brandon Flores took a feed from Pedro Perez and snapped a 10-yard shot past Lake Norman keeper Michael Carman.
“It was going wide but they played it back to Bola (Perez),” he said. “Bola just turned it around and gave me a nice ball.”
Lake Norman answered midway through the first half when forward Greyson Hitchner settled a ball on the left side and baited Owens out of his cage, then lifted a soft, lollipop shot that cleared the keeper and bounced over the goal line.
Carson replied with a pair of goals in the final 12 minutes of the first half. The Cougars went up 2-1 when Brandon Flores accepted a through pass from defender Aaron Lippard, then slid a deceptive backwards pass to himself through Lake Norman’s congested midfield. When he spun out of the scrum on the right side, it freed him for an uncontested 15-yard blast that froze Carman in his tracks. Flores called the maneuver a “toe-flick to the outside,” and added: “It makes the defender think I’m going inside, but I’m not.”
Only 2:48 remained in the half when Flores netted his third goal of the game — and fourth of the season. This time, following a free kick by Perez, he stumbled upon a loose ball in front and tapped it over the line.
“I was just lucky to be in the right place at the right time,” the junior said.
The Wildcats trimmed their deficit to 3-2 when midfielder Luis Vargas converted a 25-yard shot early in the second half, but Carson responded a minute later when sophomore Khalid Myers elevated a shot over a Lake Norman screen and into the net.
The Wildcats answered with about 26 minutes to play when Matt Steen scored off a long throw-in on the left side.

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