Lee Horton had coached a thousand or two soccer matches, and he knew what deciding a game on penalty kicks meant.
“Penalty kicks can be a cruel fate,” Horton said.
And so they were for Horton, whose 37-year career as soccer coach at Charlotte Latin ended Saturday evening with the Hawks losing the private schools’ 4A state championship match to Providence Day — in a match that ended six hours after it started.
It marked the third straight time that Providence Day had beaten Latin in the 4A girls’ soccer finals, and it sent Horton into retirement with more than a dozen state championships in boys’ and girls’ soccer and more than 1,000 career victories at Charlotte Latin.
“When it comes to penalty kicks, a lot of things can happen,” Horton said. “Providence Day’s keeper made two great saves.”
The Chargers (18-4) and Charlotte Latin (17-3) played scoreless soccer for 80 minutes of regulation and 30 more minutes of overtime. Providence Day then outscored the Hawks 3-1 in the penalty-kick shootout.
“We have two of the best goalkeepers in the state,” Providence Day coach Dan Dudley said, when asked if he was nervous entering the shootout. “And Addy came through for us.”
That’s Addy Holgorsen, a senior who is a Clemson commit but played much of the season with a shoulder injury. As is his custom, Dudley started Chandler Brooks in goal for the first half, then put Holgorsen in the game.
In the shootout, Holgorsen stopped Ella Smith’s shot on the Hawks’ first attempt, then flicked away a blistering shot by Avery Cheatwood on the fourth try. That clinched it for the Chargers, as Kate Cater, Blane McElroy and Stephanie Zawtocki each made their attempts.
When the game ended, Horton immediately walked over and consoled Latin goalkeeper Mary Schleusner, who made several big saves during regulation. Schleusner, a defender for much of the season, was moved to goal during the playoffs after the regular netminder, Maddie Shannon, was injured.
“Mary made some big saves for us, just like both of their (Providence Day) goalkeepers did for them,” Horton said. “It was a great match between two great teams.”
It also was a long match.
The teams kicked it off at 2 p.m. on the neutral field at Charlotte Country Day, but the match was halted after less than 12 minutes when thunderstorms rolled it. Play didn’t resume until three hours later.
“We gave out snacks, we played charades … we did what we could to keep busy while we waited,” Dudley said. “This match took so long that I had to ask one of the girls what day it was. I’d forgotten.”
Dudley said the Hawks dominated his team before the lightning delay.
“The delay gave us a chance to regroup, and I think we came out strong afterward,” he said.
The opening half was largely defensive. The second half was a polar opposite, with each team getting several great chances.
“I don’t know how many times our shots hit the side of the net,” Horton said. “Like I said, soccer can be cruel.”
Horton said his retirement will include golf, traveling with his wife, and spending time with grandchildren.
“But I’ll be back to watch soccer,” he said. “Both of these teams have great futures. I’m looking forward to watching.”