Wednesday, 02 May 2018 00:37

Millen’s hat trick helps beat Hoke County and advances Richmond to second round of SAC tournament

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Senior Hanna Millen (3) scored a hat trick, her second of the year, in Richmond's 5-0 win over Hoke County in Tuesday's SAC tournament opener. Senior Hanna Millen (3) scored a hat trick, her second of the year, in Richmond's 5-0 win over Hoke County in Tuesday's SAC tournament opener. Photo courtesy of Kyle Pillar.

ROCKINGHAM - Entering Tuesday’s opening round of the Sandhills Athletic Conference tournament, the No. 3 Lady Raiders soccer team had won its last five games, outscoring their opponents 18-4.

The game that started the winning streak was against Hoke County High School on April 16, which was a 3-1 victory thanks to two first-half goals by junior forward Morgan Hooks.

In Tuesday’s match, Richmond saw the No. 6 Lady Bucks for the third time this year and completed the season sweep, eliminating Hoke County by a final score of 5-0. It was the first time Richmond had shut out the Raeford team this season, and the seventh overall shutout in 2018.

Leading the Lady Raiders offensively was senior striker Hanna Millen who scored her second hat trick of the season, with her first also coming against Hoke County (4-17-2, 3-11-2 SAC), that one on the road on March 14 in a 6-1 win. A pair of juniors, Morgan Hooks and Jayana Nicholson, each tacked on goals in the opening round win.

“Once we finally put one in the back of the net with Hanna’s first goal, that got the ball rolling,” head coach Bennie Howard commented after his team’s win. “We played some people out of position after we had a couple of players get knocked and had to sit out for a little bit. But I’m proud of the girls’ effort tonight.”

After what Howard described as a “slow start”, despite Richmond’s dominance in ball control and several well-placed crosses by Official Richmond County Female Athlete of the Week Chloe Wiggins for near goals, Millen entered the game in the 12th minute off the bench. Just six minutes after checking in, Millen netted her first goal of the night in the 18th minute from the center of the 18-yard box on an assist from Wiggins. Millen’s shot went to the left side of the goal and banked off the post and past Hoke County keeper Melissa Torres.

Millen struck again in the 23rd minute on her most athletic goal of the night, this time heading in a perfectly placed Wiggins cross from inside the six-yard box along the far post. Wiggins’ cross, which came from the deep right corner, was her team-leading 15th assist on the year and second in the game.

Up 2-0, Millen had another opportunity just moments later when teammate Carley Lambeth sent a slick pass through two defenders to find Millen wide open in front of the net. However, Torres made a diving save, one of several on the night, to keep Millen at just two goals.

Nicholson extended Richmond’s lead to three goals at the 9:01 mark in the first half when she corralled a loose ball after Torres failed to properly clear the it out of her own end. Taking the ball from roughly 30 yards out, Nicholson settled it and ripped a zinger from 25 yards that sailed into the upper left corner of the goal, never giving Torres a chance to stop it. It was Nicholson’s eighth goal of the season.

With time winding down in the first half, Richmond had three consecutive scoring chances around the net thanks to junior forward Emily Parsons. Taking a corner kick from the right side, Parsons’ first lob was punched out of bounds by Torres, and had her second attempt headed out by a Hoke County defender. Her third attempt went to teammate Avy Lucero, who laced one just high of the crossbar. Howard’s team entered the half up 3-0.

Out of the break, Hooks made quick work in the opening 10 minutes by scoring her 12th goal of the season. Freshman Caroline Whitley, who was credited with an assist, sent a ball on net from inside the 18-yard box that hit Torres’ hands, but she wasn’t able to stop it. Hooks made a head’s up play by crashing the net and booted the loose ball back at Torres, hitting the sprawling keeper’s body and ricocheting into the net for a 4-0 advantage with just over 30 minutes to go.

Millen wrapped up the night’s scoring just over four minutes later thanks to a hustle play by sophomore midfielder Emily Buie. On an offensive rush, Buie raced down the left sideline almost to the end line and sent a grounder toward the box. The ball had eyes and worked its way through three Lady Bucks players, finding Millen who toed the ball in with her right foot. The hat trick was Millen’s 10th, 11th and 12th goals of the season, tying her with Hooks for the team lead.

With their win Tuesday, the No. 3 Lady Raiders (16-4, 12-3 SAC) will head to No. 2 Jack Britt High School Wednesday looking to take the rubber match between the two schools. Each team won its home match in the regular season, as the Lady Buccaneers and Lady Raiders have developed a new physical rivalry.

In the two previous matches, each one was decided by just one goal. Richmond took the second matchup 2-1 thanks to a Lucero penalty kick and a Hooks second-half goal. Jack Britt won the early-season match on some late game controversy 1-0. Wednesday’s second round match is set to start at 7 p.m.

“Hopefully we saved some legs for (Wednesday) night,” Howard said of the third match against Jack Britt (14-5, 12-3 SAC). “This team can play when the girls set their mind to it, but sometimes they come out lackadaisical. We need to send a message, and we did just enough to win tonight.

“When we go to the next level, and I’m talking about the state playoffs, we can’t wait 12 or 16 minutes to score a goal,” Howard concluded. “We have to come out with some intensity tomorrow at Jack Britt. That’ll be an intense game all the way around. I told the girls that if they want play Friday night (in the SAC championship), they have to show me what they want to do. And hopefully they’ll show me they want to beat Jack Britt.”

Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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