Myers Park girls’ soccer coach Bucky McCarley says senior Caileen Almeida is a student of the game.
“She is always studying what is happening out there, always analyzing,” McCarley says.
Almeida, one of the Mustangs’ leading scorers, was held in check for a chunk of Tuesday night’s 4A Western Regional final match against visiting Page.
But in a 10-second span of the second half, Almeida put what she had seen of the opposition to work for Myers Park. She drove ¾ of the length of the field and scored the decisive goal in the Mustangs’ 3-2 victory over Page.
That sends Myers Park (17-0-1) into the 4A championship match this weekend against East Region winner Pinecrest (13-1-1).
The finale will be played at Greensboro Grimsley High, either on Friday or Saturday. The N.C. High School Athletic Association is expected to announce the game day and time on Wednesday.
Raleigh, Charlotte-area teams advance
Myers Park was one of several Charlotte and Triangle-area teams to advance to the finals.
▪ In 3A, Cox Mill outlasted AC Reynolds 2-1 and Chapel Hill beat Northern Guilford 1-0. Those two will play for the title Friday or Saturday.
▪ In 2A, Lake Norman Chrater beat South Point 4-0, and Carrboro and Clinton tied at 1, but Carrboro won 3-1 on penalty kicks. Those two will play Friday or Saturday for the state title.
▪ And in 1A, Community School of Davidson beat Christ The King 3-0. It will play Franklin Academy in the finals.
At Myers Park, sitting helps
For Myers Park, sitting on the bench some may have helped Almeida.
When McCarley lifted his leading scorers during some of the Mustangs’ lopsided victories this season, Almeida often would spend the rest of the match standing next to McCarley, asking questions about strategy.
“She wants to know what she can do to make her teammates better,” McCarley says.
But on Tuesday night, Almeida changed the direction of the game largely by herself.
Page (14-4) had rallied from a 2-1 halftime deficit and tied the match when Maria Vanore connected with a left-footed kick from 15 yards out with about 30 minutes remaining in the match.
The Pirates continued to apply pressure, and Myers Park goalkeeper Lizzie Sarmiento made a diving stop of another Vanore shot with 16 minutes left.
About a minute later, Almeida, who plays for the Puerto Rican under-21 national team in the offseason, intercepted a pass near midfield. She dribbled the ball down the field, zig-zagging and faking her way past three Page defenders.
When she got just outside the box, she cut loose with a right-footed kick that beat Page goalkeeper Eva Hecht.
That gave the Mustangs a 3-2 lead, and they held off the Pirates for the victory.
Sarmiento made two big saves in the closing six minutes to help send Myers Park to its second 4A championship in three years.
The visitors from Greensboro struck first, with Madelyn Goas lofting a high looping shot into the Myers Park goal a bit more than 17 minutes into the match.
The Mustangs pulled ahead with two goals in the final six minutes of the first half.
Senior Caroline Pulliam evened the match with a right-footed 15-yard shot, and sophomore Charlotte Simas put Myers Park ahead with a 20-yard kick that went over the head of Hecht.
THREE WHO MATTERED
Caileen Almeida, Myers Park: After a relatively quiet opening 60 minutes, Almeida beat several Page defenders and scored the winning goal.
Mia Lynch, Myers Park: A junior midfielder, Lynch had a big role in preventing Page from taking the lead in the second half. At least four times in the closing 20 minutes, Lynch broke up a Pirate surge by blocking or intercepting passes deep in the Mustang zone.
Maria Vanore, Page: Vanore scored the Pirates’ second goal and nearly scored two more times. She also stymied the Myers Park attack by stealing several Mustang passes in the midfield area in the first half.
▪ Caileen Almeida was the second-half hero, but she had a rough first half. She was called for five fouls in the opening 40 minutes.
▪ Myers Park coach Bucky McCarley pulled off a remarkable “double” in the past six weeks. He took the Mustang boys’ team to the 4A championship match and now is doing the same with the girls.
▪ This will be the Mustangs’ second appearance in the girls’ soccer championship. They lost to Fuquay-Varina in the 2018 finals. But Myers Park has played 82 playoff matches alltime, winning 52.
▪ Pinecrest won the East 4A Regional final by a 4-3 score Tuesday over Hoggard. Pinecrest trailed 2-0 but scored four times in the final 12 minutes. The Patriots’ got the winning goal from Morgan McGuirt with about six minutes remaining.
Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle
Tuesday’s Spring Sports Roundup
Cox Mill 2, A.C. Reynolds 1 … The Chargers built a 2-0 lead, then held off A.C. Reynolds after the Rockets scored with 10 minutes left. Cox Mill will be playing in its second 3A state championship.
The Chargers’ victory set up a rematch of the 2018 3A state final. Cox Mill dropped a 1-0 decision that year to Chapel Hill.
Chapel Hill 1, Northern Guilford 0 … Senior Lizzie Ball scored midway through the first half, and the Tigers’ defense preserved the shutout in the East Regional final.
Lake Norman Charter 4, South Point 0 … The Knights ran their record to 19-0 and won their third straight West Regional title. They will get a rematch in the state finals with Carrboro, the team that beat them 4-3 on penalty kicks in the 2019 championship.
Asha Means scored three goals for Lake Norman Charter.
Carrboro 1, Clinton 1 … Defending 2A state champion Carrboro prevailed by winning 4-3 on penalty kicks. Down 1-0 at the half, Carrboro forced overtime when Sarah Wesley scored with 3:10 left in regulation.
The teams played through two 10-minute overtime periods and two sudden-death overtimes before moving to penalty kicks.
Carrboro has won four of the last five 2A girls’ championships.
Community School of Davidson 3, Christ the King 0 … The Spartans ran their record to 17-0 and captured the West Regional title. Michaela Dees and Cameron Koster scored within a three-minute span of the first half, putting the Spartans ahead to stay.
It will be the fourth state championship appearance for the Spartans since 2014.
Franklin Academy 3, East Carteret 0 … The Patriots captured their fifth straight East Regional title. They will face Community School of Davidson, the team they beat in the 2017 championship.
Sophomore Megan Hughes scored two goals, and senior Grayson Kelly added a goal and an assist for Franklin Academy.
Providence Day 8, North Raleigh Christian 0 … Senior Katerina Peroulas scored two goals and added four assists, as the Chargers (18-0) trounced the Knights (14-5) in a semifinal match.
Cameryn Sicord added two goals and an assist, and Morgan Hart had a goal and two assists for Providence Day, which will host the championship match Saturday.
Charlotte Latin 1, Wesleyan Christian 0 … Senior captain Mary Gale Godwin broke away from the defense and scored with 4:25 left in regulation, lifting the Hawks (16-2) into the state title match. It was Godwin’s 22nd goal of the season.
Cary Christian 3, Asheville Christian 2 … Cary Christian (12-1-1) jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first half and held off the visitors. The Knights will host Saturday’s state championship, facing the winner of Wednesday’s semifinal between Coastal Christian and Forsyth Country Day.
St. Thomas More 2, Caldwell Academy 2 (St. Thomas More wins 4-3 on PK’s) … Catherine D’Argenio and Katie Fix scored goals in regulation, and St. Thomas More won on penalty kicks. The Chancellors (14-2-1) will play at Hickory Christian in Saturday’s final.
Hickory Christian 5, Friendship Christian 3 … The host Knights exploded for three goals in the second half and ran their record to 16-0-1. They will host St. Thomas More for the state championship Saturday.
Charlotte Christian 15, North Raleigh Christian 8 … The Knights (20-6) battered North Raleigh Christian pitchers and moved into the best-of-three state finals Friday and Saturday.
Charlotte Christian will host Wesleyan Christian, whom they swept in two games for the 2019 4A championship.
Last year’s playoffs were canceled due to COVID-19.
Hickory Grove Christian 7, Raleigh GRACE Christian 0 … Pitchers Drew Lanzo, Ryan Wilson and Jordan Santos limited GRACE Christian to one hit, as the Lions moved into the 3A state finals. They will host High Point Christian in a best-of-three series starting Friday.
Lanzo pitched four innings, allowing a hit and striking out nine. Ken Malacinski had the only hit for GRACE Christian.
Riane Franklin had two hits and three RBI for Hickory Grove Christian (26-2).
Hoggard 3, Fuquay-Varina 2 … Maria Stephens’ two-out, two-run double in the sixth inning gave Fuquay-Varina a 2-1 lead, but Hoggard scored twice in the seventh and won the East Region.
Hoggard’s Skyler Walker homered to tie the game in the seventh, and Jordan Martin later scored the winning run on a wild pitch.
East Forsyth 2, South Caldwell 1 … East Forsyth scored the winning run in the top of the fifth and captured the West Region. The victors will face Hoggard in a best-of-three title series Friday and Saturday.
Alexander Central 3, North Buncombe 0 … Faith Carrigan pitched a four-hitter, struck out nine, and had two of her team’s three hits in this West Regional final. Alexander Central will be aiming for its sixth state championship in softball.
Losing pitcher Karlyn Pickens scattered three hits and struck out 17. Alexander Central scored all its runs in the fourth inning, on three stolen bases and two wild pitches.
West Stanly 2, East Lincoln 0 … Jordan Hatch tossed a shutout, as the Colts (18-0) won the West Region. They are defending state champions, having won in 2019. The 2020 tournament was canceled due to COVID-19.
Lily Huneycutt’s single drove in West Stanly’s first run, in the first inning, and Morgan Edwards drove in another run in the seventh. The Colts will face South Granville (14-0) in the best-of-three finals.
South Stanly 16, Mountain Island Charter 6 … Holly Barrier’s two-run homer in the fifth inning allowed South Stanly to capture the West Region via the 10-run rule.
South Stanly, making its first championship appearance since 2012, will face Camden County in the best-of-three finals.
Stanly is the only county in the state with two teams in the softball finals.
Girls Golf: 2 area teams win state
Two Charlotte-area teams captured state titles Tuesday in the girls’ state championship golf tournaments.
And a pair of Wake County teams grabbed second and third places in the 4A event.
The 4A, 3A and 1A-2A girls’ tournaments were played at courses in Moore County.
Reagan took the 4A team title, and Reagan senior Macy Pate was medalist in that tournament.
Freedom beat out defending champion Cox Mill for the 3A title, and West Lincoln grabbed the 1A-2A championship.
Katherine Schuster of First Flight was the 1A-2A tournament medalist, sweeping that honor in all four years in her high school career.
Boys’ competition was held Monday.
Here is a look at Tuesday’s girls’ championships:
Reagan scored a 213 total at Pinehurst No. 1 and held off runner-up Green Hope (221) and third-place Cardinal Gibbons (226).
Rounding out the field were Ardrey Kell (234), Heritage (237), Hickory Ridge 9240) and Holly Springs (252).
Pate’s 68 was 2-under-par and one stroke better than runner-up Grace Holcomb of Laney.
Maria Atwood of Holly Springs, Heather Appelson of Heritage and Green Hope’s Halynn Lee were part of a four-way tie for fourth place, at 71.
Hickory Ridge’s Claudia Winterburg and Cardinal Gibbons’ Ava Lucas tied for eighth at 72. And Green Level’s Maddy Linares shot a 73 for 10th place.
Freedom shot a 263 at Beacon Ridge Golf and Country Club in West End, and the Patriots easily knocked off defending champion Cox Mill (281). Trailing were Rockingham County (289), Fike (299), Western Alamance (308) and Topsail (311).
Emily Matthews of Eastern Alamance was the runaway medalist winner, shooting a one-under 71. She was eight shots ahead of runner-up Layla Meric of Cuthbertson.
Tied for third, with a score of 84, were Freedom’s Anna Czarkowski and Albany Bock and Marvin Ridge’s Kayla Hightower. Charlotte Catholic’s Kate Dann and Cox Mill’s Riya Modak were part of a four-way tie for eighth, with 87’s.
West Lincoln shot a 257 at Pinehurst No. 8 and won by 10 shots over Pine Lake Prep. Other team scores were Newton-Conover’s 269, Oak Grove’s 271, Croatan’s 305, and Raleigh Charter’s 326.
First Flight’s Katherine Schuster led the way with a 2-under-par 70 and grabbed her fourth consecutive medalist honor. Pine Lake Prep’s Caroline Johnson was second at 76. Camryn Lamp of Newton-Conover shot an 81 for ninth place, and Raleigh Charter’s Lily Rowe was 10th with an 82.
Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle