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Prep Soccer: Carson falls on PKs

By David Shaw

david.shaw@salisburypost.com

CHINA GROVE — This isn’t the story fourth-seeded Carson wanted to tell Monday night.

For the second year in a row, the Cougars’ season ended following a round of penalty kicks. In 2013, they fell in the third round of the 3A state playoffs at South Iredell. Monday, they were outgunned in penalty kicks by defending 3A state champion Marvin Ridge after the teams battled to a 1-1 draw in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A state playoffs.

“It’s tough to go out this way, but you can’t play all night,” coach Justin Buckwalter said. “If you don’t get it done in regular time, you go to PKs. You can’t say we didn’t have our chances. We had lots of them. We just didn’t put them away.”

Over the course of 110 minutes Carson outshot No. 13 Marvin Ridge 27-13, but was outscored 5-3 in the shootout. Winning keeper Andrew Vlasov had already made 20 saves when he stonewalled Colton Correll on Carson’s first attempt, diving to his right to thwart a hard shot to the left side.

“Andrew said this is the minute he lives for,” Mavericks coach Jason Zak told his team afterward. “Then what does he do? He stops the first shot.”

Vlasov, a 6-foot-3 senior, was sharp in just his second start since returning from an ankle injury. He allowed only Khalid Myers’ game-tying goal with 15 minutes, 50 seconds remaining in the second half and seemed to make one dramatic save after another.

“I just love penalty kicks,” he said. “Everybody thinks the goalie has a disadvantage. But the way I look at it, the real pressure is on the kicker to score.”

It was a frustrating night for the Cougars, who peppered Vlasov with long-range, short-range and doorstep attempts.

“It hurts,” said Brandon Flores, the junior who netted 42 goals this season. “We had so many chances. I just couldn’t finish plays. They didn’t give me space to turn. They did a good job covering and didn’t let me get anything.”

Credit for that goes to Marvin Ridge defender Ryan Scott, a senior who hounded Flores throughout.

“He’s pretty shifty — a guy who likes to move his feet,” Scott said. “I tried my best to stay with him and that forced them to play the ball over the top a lot.”

Marvin Ridge scored its only goal in the 13th minute when midfielder Mitchell Buttrey drilled a long free kick off the crossbar. The ball ping-ponged in front of the cage until teammate Harrison Chewning headed a rebound past Carson keeper Grayson Owens.

“It was a free kick and my defenders didn’t follow the ball in,” Buckwalter said. “They’re attackers did.”

Owens had a sturdy game in net for the Cougars. He recorded eight saves — and some of them were spectacular — despite suffering a blow to his left temple during the second 10-minute overtime period.

Myers converted a feed from Flores late in regulation and ignited the clamorous crowd. “You could feel we had the momentum,” the sophomore halfback said. “We were working harder than they were. We were fighting for every ball. We thought we were going to win.”

Instead, Vlasov shut the door by stopping six more shots in overtime. The Cougars received shootout goals Pedro Perez, Myers and Flores, but Marvin Ridge (15-7-1) went 5-for-5 against Owens and advanced to the third round.

“I hate that it went to penalty kicks,” Zak said. “It’s like the best and worst way to end a game.”

And for Carson, another season.

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