Coach David Smith was finalizing the order in which he’d send players onto the field to take penalty kicks on Wednesday, when freshman Courtney Carroll saved the Hough High girls’ soccer coach from thinking too hard about the matter.
With 20 seconds remaining in the fourth overtime of the N.C. 4A playoff game, Carroll found herself amid a sea of players right in front of the Butler High goal, a ball kicked perfectly by freshman teammate Sarah Moon floating in the air toward them.
The ball first caromed off Carroll’s stomach, then, perhaps, off her right knee, into the goal, giving the Huskies a 1-0 victory against the Bulldogs in a third-round playoff game.
The win was Hough’s third in a week, and continued the Huskies’ run through the playoffs. Hough previously defeated Sun Valley (2-1) and Hopewell (1-0).
The Huskies will now travel to conference rival Lake Norman High in Mooresville on Friday, with the winner of that game advancing to the state semifinals.
Even Carroll herself didn’t know exactly how the ball found its way past Butler goalkeeper Lauren McKellop, who played stellar in defeat on Wednesday.
“All I know, is that Sarah took the ball down the right sideline and hit a perfect ball,” Carroll said. “I think it went in off my right foot.”
Smith thought the ball caromed off Carroll’s head, or stomach. Another player said it went in off the freshman’s knee.
How the ball got into the net was trivial in the end.
“All I know is that the ball was in the air,” Smith said, “and then it was in the goal.”
Smith said the Moon-to-Carroll goal came from his Freshmen Connection. In a game with great defensive play, and clutch saves by McKellop and Hough goalkeeper Emily Rusk, both coaches said deciding things with penalty kicks wouldn’t have seemed right.
“With PKs, it’s a crapshoot,” Smith said. “You just never know what’s going to happen.”
Still, the coach of the Huskies was preparing for such a scenario, his thumbs rapidly at work on the keypad of his cell phone, plugging in an order in which he’d send his players to the field for their one-on-one battle with McKellop.
With a big smile on his face, Smith waved the cell phone in the air then happily placed it into his pocket. After being tied for 109 minutes and 40 seconds, the Huskies – in their first year of existence – wouldn’t need to go to penalty kicks for the first time in school history in order to win a game.
FRIDAY vs. LAKE NORMAN
The Huskies, now 21-3-1 on the season, hope to avenge on of their three losses on Friday, when they take on Lake Norman. The teams shared the I-MECK regular season title, going 12-1-1 in conference action. Just two weeks ago, the teams played to a 2-2 tie.
“(Lake Norman coach Jon) Mertes texted me the score of his game while our game was still going on,” Smith said. “I was happy. Our girls wanted another shot at them.”