MINT HILL, NC – The Independence Patriots Girls Soccer team, the #9 seed in the state playoffs, had their season come to an abrupt end on Monday night. Weddington High School the #17 seed upset the home club in stormy weather and poor field conditions. The visitors adapted better to the conditions as they appeared to have more ducks on their side of the pond, especially in the second half.
The field conditions for both teams were certainly not ideal. It was especially difficult in the second half of the contest in a constant 40 minute downpour. Why the NCHSAA pushes to get all these games in on schedule, and not factor in enough make-up dates for poor weather conditions that could impact a game, diminishes all the hard work the coaches and athletes have put in all season long.
The only score came in the first half on a header by Weddington in front of the Patriot net to take a 1-0 lead with 4:11 remaining. It appeared Indy may have scored a few minutes earlier when a smash was seemingly caught by the visiting goalkeeper by her fingertips, but she dropped the ball behind her for an apparent score, as the crowd roared in approval. However, the line official ruled the ball did not break the plane of the goal line which would have been extremely difficult to judge due to the field condition.
The play developed so quickly, the official was slow to react, and from his position on the field along the sideline he could not make an accurate call from where he was standing. If ruled a goal, which was highly possible it might have changed the momentum.
In the second half, Weddington dominated time of possession, played solid defensively, and controlled the tempo, as the steady rain continued to impede the Patriots attack. Indy relies on their speed, quickness, accurate passing, and their technical skills. However, in the mud, puddles, and at times driving rain they could not mount any consistent attack until the final five minutes of the contest. Indy put significant pressure on the Weddington defense and goalkeeper, with some hard charging rushes to the net, but they could not smack the ball into the net to tie the score. The Patriots had their chances in the final minutes, and with 42 seconds remaining Samantha Swinson drilled what looked like a potential goal from the left corner, but the ball sailed just wide of the net.
After the game good wishes where exchanged and great sportsmanship was shown by both teams including the coaches who set a good example while the rain continued to pour down on their drenched uniforms.
“It wasn’t the ending we hoped for, but this team was easily the greatest in Independence history. All season long I was amazed at their work ethic, their intelligence, and especially their technical skills. I’m so proud of the effort they put in every day, which helped us to go undefeated in conference play (11-0-1), capturing our first conference championship in school history. Our seniors provided leadership and a base to build the team around, especially defensively. Our juniors provided a lot of our attacking talent, and our sophomores and freshmen brought competition for playing time across the field that helped everyone raise their game and bodes well for the program’s future,” said Head Coach Andrew Shimko.
The Lady Patriots had a great run earning their way to the Sweet 16 in the state championship tournament. The team posted an 18-2-1 overall record on the season while winning their first ever SW4A Conference Championship.