Coming off an amazing run through the playoffs, the Laney soccer team fell 2-nil Saturday afternoon in the final match of the season as nationally ranked South Mecklenburg captured the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4A Title at Dail Soccer Complex on the campus of N.C. State.
The Bucs closed the year 20-4-3 overall after clinching the 4A East Regional and the program’s first-ever trip to the state championship.
“Give them a lot of credit for closing us down defensively,” said Laney Coach Jamie Noble. “I’m extremely proud of my kids. They battled hard and worked hard all season and the game was pretty level against a very good team.”
Entering Saturday’s contest, South Mecklenburg led the state in goals and the Sabres controlled tempo off the opening kick. South Meck kept possession on Laney’s half of the pitch through the early stages of the match and senior midfielder Marco Garcia buried a ball in the back of the net from short distance to grab a 1-0 lead.
Collyn Carpenter gained space along the right edge of the penalty area in the 17th minute and sent a looping cross toward the right edge of frame that found Garcia, who played the pass off his chest and used one touch for his 39th goal of the season and 60th tally of his high school career.
The Bucs received two yellow cards in the first half as chances were limited through the opening 40 minutes until Sam Shifflett fired a strike from just outside the 18-yard box, but senior keeper Harish Amatya had a good angle to make athe save with a diving deflection. Approaching the end of the opening period, David Dailey began the attack along the top of the penalty area and a quick back-and-forth play with Wesley Nelson led to one of three quality scoring chances throughout the match.
“I thought we kind of built it there towards the end of the first half,” Noble added. “We started to hold the ball a bit more, but they were really good at pressing the ball. We kind of put ourselves in tight spots with our decision making.”
Just as play started to level out after the break, the Sabres earned a corner kick and Brad Scharf made it a two-goal deficit for the Bucs when the senior defender found a loose ball at his feet for the put away in the 46th minute.
“To give up a goal like that is tough, but soccer is a funny game like that sometimes,” said Noble. “All it takes is one little slip and one little mistake and you get punished for it.”
Trailing 2-0, Laney continued to battle and nearly pulled within one in the 67th minute when Amatya was issued a caution for reckless play after taking down Tristan Nelson in the penalty box on a ball sent in by Robert Atkinson.
However, the golden opportunity to get on the board slipped away when David Dailey’s penalty kick attempt went left of frame to keep the shutout intact. The clean sheet was Amatya’s 17th of the season, while the Bucs had one more chance to close the deficit in the 77th minute, but a header from Wesley Nelson went wide off a bending ball from Nathaniel Lorenz.
“The second goal was kind of bad luck and we missed a PK so you know at that point its not your day,” Noble said.
With the result, South Mecklenburg secured its second state championship and first since 1975. The Sabres finished the year unbeaten at 23-0-2.
“We talked all week about enjoying the moment and accepting every minute of it because you don’t know if we’ll get back or not,” said Noble. “We’ve had a lot of success over the last few years and our league’s done well so I hope people across the state realize we’re building something good in the Port City.”