Friday, 03 May 2019 23:40

Larsen calls No. 2 Richmond's SAC tournament title loss 'momentum builder' for playoffs

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ROSports File Photo: Senior Jayana Nicholson (4) scored Richmond's lone goal in Friday's SAC tournament title game loss. ROSports File Photo: Senior Jayana Nicholson (4) scored Richmond's lone goal in Friday's SAC tournament title game loss. Kyle Pillar — The Richmond Observer.

SOUTHERN PINES — Playing in its third-straight conference tournament championship game, the No. 2 Richmond Senior High School soccer team pushed No. 1 Pinecrest High School to its limits in Friday’s showdown.

Although Richmond would come up on the wrong end of a 5-1 score in the Sandhills Athletic Conference tournament championship, head coach Chris Larsen noted how proud he was of his team’s efforts against a tough Lady Patriots team.

“We played the best 40 minutes we have played all year in the first half,” Larsen commented. “There was a three-minute span where Pinecrest scored two goals, but our defense played so well.

“After the two goals, we kind of got down, but took a deep breathe and got back in it,” he added. “The girls battled through to the end.”

Richmond (15-4) had a chance early in the 21st minute, with both teams still scoreless. Senior Julia Bornhorst took a corner kick and banged a shot off the corner of the crossbar, just missing.

Freshman Kaitlyn Huff also attempted a corner kick in the first half that just trickled wide of the net before the Pinecrest defense cleared it.

Lady Patriot senior Danielle Richmond netted the game’s first goal in the 26th minute on a cross from Keeley Copper. Copper would net the eventual game-winner less than a minute later on a pass from Victoria Kays.

That score would hold until halftime, as the Lady Patriots outscored Richmond 3-1 in the final 40 minutes of play.

“Our second half was also really good,” Larsen commented. “We didn’t have possession like some of the other games recently, but I was pleased with the way we played. I was even prouder of the way we played going down to the final whistle.”

Pinecrest junior Emma Lewis notched her team’s third goal of the night, putting it in the left corner past sophomore goalkeeper Kelly Hoffman in the 48th minute.

The final two Pinecrest goals would come in the 49th and 54th minutes, both thanks to Ellie Gulovich.

The lone Lady Raider goal came from senior midfielder Jayana Nicholson, her fourth tally of the season. Following a Pinecrest foul, junior teammate Avy Lucero took a free kick from 40 yards out and placed the ball in front of the net inside the 18-yard box.

The ball one-hopped to the feet of Nicholson, who redirected it on frame. Her shot clipped Lady Patriot goalkeeper Carley Modlin’s left foot and trickled into the net in the 60th minute.

Despite falling for the third consecutive year to Pinecrest in the conference title game, Larsen said he his team “played with a great attitude” and hopes the hard-fought performance will serve as a “momentum builder for the state playoffs.”

In the two regular-season meetings between Richmond and Pinecrest, the Lady Patriots (22-0-1) outscored Richmond 18-0 in a pair of mercy-rule wins.

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association should release its state playoff brackets this weekend, and Larsen said a home game in the first round looks likely. He also said there’s a slight chance the Lady Raiders will have a first-round bye.

“Pinecrest went to state playoffs semis last year, so no matter who we get slated against in our first playoff game, we’ll have the confidence that we can play with anyone in the state,” Larsen concluded.

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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