Myers Park’s dynamic duo goes out a winner with first NCHSAA girls soccer state title

·3 min read

Caroline Pulliam and Caileen Almeida have been friends for about seven years, back to their time together in Charlotte’s youth soccer program.

They occasionally played for different teams, but they’ve remained good friends.

Friday night, in their final game together — and the last soccer game ever, for one of them — they won the championship they wanted.

Pulliam and Almeida, both seniors, provided the fireworks, leading Myers Park to its first 4A girls’ soccer state championship, 2-0 over previously unbeaten Pinecrest at Grimsley High in Greensboro.

The Mustangs (18-0-1) blanked a Patriot team (18-1) that had outscored opponents 143-3 and had never come close to being shut out.

“We’ve been friends for a long time, and winning the state championship has always been our goal,” Pulliam said.

Myers Park coach Bucky McCarley, who coached the Mustangs’ boys to a state runner-up finish about six weeks ago, said Pulliam and Almeida had an impact on all their teammates.

“They help make all the other players better,” he said.

Fittingly, each of them scored a goal Friday night.

Pulliam put the Mustangs on the board at the 17:52 mark of the first half. She took advantage of a Pinecrest defensive error, and put her right foot on a loose ball about 15 yards from the goal. Her shot skimmed past the Patriots’ starting goalkeeper, Kennedy Woodard.

“She is so dangerous,” McCarley said of Pulliam. “She gets the ball and before the defense realizes it, she’s put it past them with that strong leg of hers.”

Almeida, who scored the winning goal Tuesday night in the Mustangs’ semifinal match against Page, added the clincher with about 11 minutes to go.

It came off a free kick, with Almeida lofting a shot about 35 yards into the goal. It soared over a four-player Pinecrest defensive wall and then over the head of Harley Kaligren, who had entered the game in the second half as Pinecrest’s goalkeeper.

“We worked hard and tried to get a little better every time we played,” said Almeida, who was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

While Pulliam and Almeida got the goals, Myers Park’s defense was superb.

The Mustangs limited Pinecrest to three shots. Only one was on goal.

For Pulliam, Friday’s match was probably her last in organized soccer. She is headed to Sewanee the University of the South next year, but she will play field hockey at the Tennessee university.

Almeida is on another path. She is a Wofford commit, but also a member of the Puerto Rican Under-21 national team. Possible World Cup and Olympic qualifying matches are in her future.

Three who mattered

Caileen Almeida, Myers Park: She scored her 25th goal of the season, tops on the team, with 10:55 remaining off a free kick. Almeida also was a defensive force, disrupting Pinecrest’s high-scoring offense.

Caroline Pulliam, Myers Park: Pulliam scored her 16th goal of the season, taking advantage of a Pinecrest defensive lapse and putting the Mustangs ahead 1-0 about 18 minutes into the match.

Savannah Dunahay, Pinecrest: A sophomore, Dunahay was the Patriots’ main weapon Friday night. She managed two shots against the stifling Myers Park defense.

Noteworthy

Pinecrest senior Lauren Landry scored 38 goals this season — among the top 10 in the state. Friday night, facing Myers Park’s tough defense, she never got off a shot. She was defended by Almeida for much of the evening. Also held without a shot was the Patriots’ No. 2 scorer, junior Keaton Clark.

This was the second appearance for Myers Park in the girls’ championship. The Mustangs lost to Fuquay-Varina in the 2018 finals. Pinecrest also was making its second appearance. The Patriots lost on penalty kicks to Heritage in 2019.

Myers Park was among only two teams to score on Pinecrest this season. The Patriots rallied from a 2-0 deficit Tuesday and beat Hoggard, 4-3.

Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle

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