In the end, one team had to win, but Tuesday night’s NCHSAA 4A girls soccer semifinal was about as even a match as you could want. Hough and Ardrey Kell high schools battled to a 1-1 tie through four overtimes, taking the game down to penalty kicks. In the end, Ardrey Kell goalie Sam Steyl stopped a shot by Hough’s Courtney Carroll, giving the Knights a 5-4 edge on penalty kicks and the victory.
The semifinal win, at Ardrey Kell in south Charlotte, means the Knights advance to Friday night’s 4A championship game in Cary, against the winner of Wednesday’s other semifinal, between New Bern and Leesville Road high schools.
It was the third straight time that Hough’s Huskies – playing in the school’s first year and without seniors – took a playoff game into overtime.
Hough goalie Emily Rusk was a big factor in Tuesday’s regulation and overtime stalemate, stopping shot after shot at key moments.
Allison Stearns opened the scoring in the 19th minute for Hough. Teammate Hannah Robinson took the ball deep into the right corner, then lofted a nice crossing ball in front of the goal where Stearns was waiting. Stearns headed the ball into the net for a 1-0 lead.
The lead didn’t last long. About five minutes later, Ardrey Kell’s Emilie Lloyd answered with a goal, tying the game at 1-1.
That’s where the score stayed through the second half, two regular overtimes, and two sudden death overtimes. That meant the game – and the team to go on to the finals – would be decided on penalty kicks.
The loss ended Hough’s season at 22 wins, 4 losses and 1 tie. Ardrey Kell goes into Friday’s championship game undefeated, at 25-0.
With reporting by George Kutcher in Charlotte.
Download brackets and results for the state soccer tournament, at NCHSAA.org.