CARY — Despite being ranked No. 1 in the nation and boasting an undefeated and untied record this season, the Green Hope girls’ soccer team felt nervous heading into its game against 3A powerhouse Cardinal Gibbons.
Their hard-fought 2-1 victory proved that those feelings were justified.
“We knew that they were a good team, and we knew it would be good competition. We had to go out there strong and physical and play our best, or we knew we wouldn’t come out on top,” said Green Hope senior captain Alexis Shaffer.
The Falcons, also the top-ranked team in The News & Observer rankings, shed their initial nerves quickly when sophomore Adelaide Cooke snuck in a header within the first five minutes of the game. Cooke’s goal slipped by Gibbons goalkeeper Kristen Twomey, who stepped out of the net a little too far.
The early point set the Falcons’ momentum in motion and proved detrimental for the Crusaders as they tried to recover from the error.
Green Hope (20-0) held the 1-0 lead for the first 20 minutes of the half before senior captain Alexis Degler caught a sharp pass from Shaffer and easily found the back of the net to expand the lead.
Cardinal Gibbons (13-2-1), ranked No. 6 in The N&O area, returned strong in the second half and played a more focused, fluid offense.
“Our mentality was different in the second half. In the beginning, we were a little hesitant. We were a bit worried about their forwards. In the second half, we said that we needed to play more of our own game, and that’s what we did. We can’t let other people intimidate us,” said Crusaders junior Morgan Reid. “When we play our game, we play a lot better, and that’s what we did in the second half, but unfortunately there are two halves and they beat us in the first one.”
Duke recruit Christina Gibbons led the attacks for the Crusaders, and they presented Green Hope with the strongest offense they have faced this season. With eight minutes left in the game, Christina Gibbons found Calleigh West open in front of the net, and she fired the ball past Green Hope goalkeeper Emily Hager to bring her team within one.
West’s goal brought a sense of frenzy to the Green Hope team, and momentum swung to the Crusaders.
“After we got our goal, everyone got a second wind, and we really wanted to tie it up,” said Gibbons.
Both teams played tough in the final minutes, but several wide shots cost the Crusaders a chance at a tie game.
“We are proud of playing hard. This is a good game to get ready for playoffs. We want to get back in the championship game to try to get that title. We’ve been trying to do that for a couple years, and that’s our main goal,” Reid said.