The road to the 2015 North Carolina High School Athletic Association State Soccer Championship goes through Wilmington this season as No. 8 Laney and No. 23 New Hanover both clinched a spot in the 4A East Regional on Saturday.
The teams will meet Tuesday at Laney.
After earning a home game in the fourth round of the playoffs following a 2-1 result over top-ranked Apex earlier this week, the eighth-seeded Bucs posted a 2-0 shutout Saturday over No. 12 Raleigh-Broughton.
“I can’t even explain what’s going on right now,” said Laney Coach Jamie Noble. “It’s like we’re in a dream right now. When the bracket came out I was a little upset after another solid season and had a gauntlet to go through. We beat two top five programs in the state and really took it to them tonight.”
Laney set the tone early on a chilly night in Buctown, but the match remained scoreless until junior David Dailey tallied his ninth goal of the season with a 25-yard strike in the 49th minute to grab a one score advantage.
“We had a couple chances in the first half and talked at the half about staying patient,” Noble added. “When we finally got one it broke their spirit and gave us that sense of confidence to get another one.”
Tristan Nelson provided the insurance midway through the second half when the junior midfielder headed home a corner kick from Tyler Keser to send Laney into the next round. Stephen Hagewood also had another strong game in net to preserve the clean sheet.
The two Laney goals were the first allowed by Raleigh-Broughton this tournament.
“This group has really started playing together as a unit over last couple of weeks,” said Noble. “All facets of our game are clicking right now and we’re playing at a really high level. ”
The Bucs moved to 19-3-3 overall and take a nine-game winning streak into the 4A East Regional against New Hanover.
“It’s almost poetic that both of our teams get to play to get in the state championship,” Noble said. “We’ve both been so successful over the last few years. I’m glad it’ll be a home game for us and it’s going to be a great atmosphere. It was electric tonight and I know it’ll be like that again come next week. You can’t make it up.”
No. 23 New Hanover 2 No. 3 Cardinal Gibbons 1
The Wildcats continued its impressive late season run on Saturday night by handing third-ranked Cardinal Gibbons a 2-1 setback to advance to their second straight 4A East Regional.
Shaffer Lisle finished a set piece from John Evans for the go ahead goal in the 70th minute to break a 1-1 match, while Roman Lewis had a game to remember with 10 saves in the result.
“Tonight’s victory was a great team effort,” said New Hanover Coach T.J. Rennie. “Our guys really had to band together and work as hard as they could to get a foothold in the game. I’m very proud of them for the defensive effort as well as being able to take advantage of our set piece opportunities.”
New Hanover remained steadfast on the defensive end of the pitch as Cardinal Gibbons had an early shot ring off the post.
Moss Lewis answered the call for the Wildcats 30 minutes into the first half on an assist from Evans, but Sam Milliken found the equalizer in the 65th minute to set up the dramatic finish.
New Hanover won its 10th straight to clinch a spot in the final four and allowed just one goal through four games this postseason. The Wildcats improved to 20-7-1 overall, but dropped both matches to Laney during the regular season.
“We couldn’t have done this without the performance from our goalkeeper,” Rennie added. “My wife is an English teach and could probably use more adjectives that could describe Roman’s play tonight, but for me it was something that was just amazing.”
The Bucs grabbed a 2-1 overtime win on Oct. 8 and a 1-0 result in mid-September.
The winner of Tuesday’s match clinches a berth to the state championship at Dail Soccer Complex on the campus of N.C. State University on November 21.