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The Faith Christian girls soccer team celebrates the NC Christian School Association 2-A state championship, the first for the Ramseur school.

Faith wins its first state championship

RAMSEUR — It’s a simple-sounding strategy in high school soccer, but one that is very difficult to execute. If you keep possession of the ball, it makes it very difficult for the opposition to score. Just hold on to the ball.


Faith Christian used that strategy beautifully throughout the soccer season and the Eagles were so good at it, they captured the NCCSA 2-A state championship last week.


Faith Christian, which had already celebrated a girls basketball state title in the winter, added its first-ever soccer crown with a 4-1 win over Wilson Christian in the state tournament finals held at Wilson Christian. The win capped a 17-1 season for the Eagles in a campaign that saw Faith outscore its opposition 91-11. Surrendering just 11 goals all season is certainly evidence of a team that had possession for much of the matches.


“Our defense starts at midfield and our emphasis all year has been possession,” Faith fifth-year head coach Brian Gaines said. “We have a strong core at midfield. If we keep the ball, the other team can’t score.”


The midfield was led by the trio of seniors in Karrie and Kylie Gaines, the twin daughters of the head coach, and Madison Avelino. 


“What they did at midfield was the key to the championship and we built this team around that,” Gaines said.


All three were named all-state.


Along the way to the state title, the Eagles posted 11 shutouts, including six in a row at one point in the season. The only loss was a 4-1 setback to New Life Camp, a homeschool based in Raleigh. Faith captured its final 15 games of the season.


Last year, the Eagles advanced to the state finals, falling 2-0 to Wilson Christian. That, despite an ACL injury to Kylie Gaines, the team’s leading scorer up to the point of her injury.


This year, everyone remained healthy and the team benefited from the play of Kenize York, a seventh grader who stepped into one of the star defensive roles.  


“That only has happened a handful of times,” Gaines said about a seventh grader becoming a major contributor. “She was a massive piece of the puzzle defensively. She played like a senior.”


Kenlyn Scott and Christina Davis also spearheaded the defense with goalie Alexis Lynch.


The Eagles finished 11-0 in league play and entered the state tournament as one of the two top seeds. Faith received a first-round bye before topping Greenville Christian Academy 9-0 and Southside Christian 4-2 to reach the finals.


In the title match, sophomore Ruth McLanahan, playing in her fourth season at Faith, scored three goals. She started the scoring in the first half, and after Wilson tied the game early in the second half, she scored what proved to be the game-winning goal just three minutes after the game had been tied.


Faith added goals in the 25th minute and then the 30th-minute for breathing  room.


“I really didn’t expect it to happen,” said McLanahan of her three-goal outburst. “It was one after another. We knew we had a good season leading up to this game and we just wanted to finish strong and give it our all.”


When the game ended, the Eagles were celebrating their first soccer title.


“It was a very surreal moment,” McLanahan said. “I didn’t believe it was happening. We had a bunch of senior girls and we wanted to finish strong for them.”


There were eight members of the soccer team who were also involved with the basketball championship, including seven players. 


“It was a very emotional moment,” Gaines said. “We had seven seniors on the team and five had been around for a while. It was great to see them come together like a perfect symphony. Of course the twins being a part of it was pretty overwhelming. It was an exhilarating moment.”


Kylie Gaines finished the season with 25 goals, Karrie Gaines had 16 and McLanahan had 15 goals and 15 assists.


“These girls were driven by the fact we had never done it before,” Gaines said of the state title. “There have been a lot of great players before, but these girls were on a mission. Our motto was ‘The power of one — one team, one focus, one destiny.’ Our goal was always the state championship.” 


Mission accomplished.