MOORESVILLE — There have been plenty of offensive barrages for the Wheatmore High School varsity soccer team during the past two seasons, and the latest one earned the Warriors a chance to repeat as the NCHSAA state 2-A champions.
Second-seeded WHS scored three goals in the first 10 minutes of Tuesday night’s West Regional finals against top-seeded Pine Lake Prep and used that fast start to help record a 5-2 victory over the Pride.
The victory boosts the Warriors into Saturday’s state 2-A championship game against Manteo, which will be held at 2:30 p.m. at UNCG.
The win also boosts the Warriors to 24-0 on the season, and coupled with last year’s 25-0 finish, gives WHS 49 straight victories, a new state record.
Before the large crowd of supporters had settled in their seats, the Warriors were enjoying a 3-1 lead. Two goals by Ellie Garrison, who now has a state record of 94 on the season, and another on a header by Summer Bowman off a corner kick from sister Natalie Bowman, gave the Warriors a two-goal lead less than 10 minutes into the contest.
“We had a little energy, a little anger,” WHS coach Rick Maness said of the opening minutes. “One of our coaches before the game said they (Pine Lake Prep) had already set their practice schedule for the rest of the week and were ready to go Saturday. I said, ‘OK, I will use that.’ We had a little bit of pep at the beginning of the game.”
Last season, en route to the state title, the Warriors outscored opponents 195-16, another state record for offense. This year, the Warriors have been even more impressive, breaking that single-season mark for goals with an even 200 while giving up just 12.
“It’s crazy, this has been our goal since the start of the season and to finally be there is like a huge relief and a great feeling knowing we worked so hard and we’re finally here,” said Garrison, a junior who has now scored 200 career goals, just 17 off the state record for career goals set by Carolyn Lindsay of South View from 2000-03. “It’s just so great to play with this team. Everyone works so hard.”
The Pride, whose season ends at 20-2-2, carried play early, keeping the ball in the WHS half of the field. But it was the Warriors who drew first blood when Summer Bowman, who finished with three goals and now has 61 on the season, headed in a corner kick from her younger sister for a 1-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.
Garrison made it 2-0 at 32:47, drilling in a shot from 35 yards out, which set off a streak of three goals between the two teams in just 1 minute and 27 seconds. Pine Lake Prep’s Avery Garrett scored her 20th goal of the season to make it 2-1, but Garrison took a nice feed from Summer Bowman on the left side and scored from 20 yards out to make it 3-1 with still 31:20 to play in the first half.
“When we got our first goal, we started to calm down a little,” said Summer Bowman. “The second we calmed down even more and then they got their goal and we knew it wasn’t going to be easy.”
The Warriors kept that lead until halftime as both teams settled down, each missing a couple of opportunities.
Early in the second half, Natalie Bowman’s free kick from up top was blocked by the goalie, but Garrison kept the rebound outlive and Summer Bowman punched it in for a 4-1 lead with just over four minutes played.
Bowman’s third goal came off a scramble in front off another corner kick and the 5-1 lead with under 20 minutes to play sealed the contest, although PLP added one final tally with about 10 minutes left.
“Everyone came together and we did what we needed to do and got it,” Summer Bowman said. “To go back to the state championship, we will go in just as hard. We want a repeat. Winning it a second time would be just as good as the first time.”