MOUNT HOLLY — River Hawkins doesn’t like to lose. But if he must, there better be a lesson at the end of it.
In cruise control coming out of spring break last month, his East Gaston girls soccer team was awakened from its slumber in the form of an 8-0 loss to undefeated South Point.
“South Point should be No. 1 in 3A West, in my opinion,” he said. “They have a lot of talented players and handled us pretty well. To be honest, that loss humbled us a bit because we were on a bit of a run.
“At the time, we had given up only eight goals all season. You come and play a talented team like that, it really lets you know you’re not as good as you thought you were.”
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Though not at the level of South Point, East Gaston’s response has shown the Warriors aren’t too shabby themselves.
A memorable season for East Gaston added another chapter on Tuesday, the co-Southern Piedmont 1A/2A champions claiming a 7-0 victory over West Wilkes in the first round of the 2A West playoffs. It is the team's first playoff victory since 2010.
East Gaston has won six consecutive games since its loss to South Point, outscoring opponents 44-0.
“I’m a huge fan of Liverpool, and I love the term ‘mentality monsters,’” Hawkins said. “These girls are in much the same mold, they find a way. Another clean sheet on the season too; I can’t ask for much more from a coaching perspective.
“It’s a playoff game and you never know exactly what you’re going to get. But these girls responded as they’ve done all season.”
Few opponents have been able to thwart East Gaston’s scoring duo of Ava Stillwell and Reagan Luckadoo. The two continued their barrage against West Wilkes, Stillwell earning a hat trick with Luckadoo netting one as well. Lydia Walls and Grace Doster also netted a goal in the contest.
Hawkins said the team’s variety of scoring options excites him most.
“It’s a full team effort,” he said. “We’ve had players score goals from midfield, some in the attack, others from the defensive line. When you have a team with depth at every spot, you get excited because they get the opportunity to showcase themselves. Especially when the player is a center back who doesn’t get on the stat sheet much; so it’s always fun when they hit the back of the net here and there.”
It’s already been a magical season for East Gaston (16-2-1) with a program-high in wins. Hawkins hopes there is still a little magic left in the bag Thursday, when the fifth-seeded Warriors take on No. 12 Salisbury (16-1-2).
“To hang a banner and then win a playoff game as the highest seeded team in our school history, the girls are excited and want to keep this going,” Hawkins said. “I mean, who am I to tell them no? With this kind of energy and momentum, the sky's the limit.”
(17) St. Stephens 3, (16) Crest 1: Cadence Setzer scored an early goal for the Chargers, whose season ends at 13-6-1.
(13) Hickory 4, (20) Forestview 0: Forestview’s season ends at 11-8.
(4) East Lincoln 7, (29) West Rowan 0: The Mustangs (16-3-3) move on to face Western Foothills 3A rival Hickory in the second round.
(18) Stuart Cramer 3, (15) Freedom 1: The Storm went on the road to earn a first-round playoff win.
(2) South Point 9, (31) Jesse Carson 0: The Red Raiders made light work of Jesse Carson, setting up a second round matchup against nearby Stuart Cramer.
(17) Lincoln Charter 9, (16) McMichael 0: Lincoln Charter travels to top-seeded Wilkes Central in second round play.
(8) Lincolnton 11, (25) Burns 2: The Wolves host No. 9 Madison on Thursday. Burns’ season ends at 12-7-1.
(4) West Davidson 4, (29) Shelby 0: Shelby’s season ends at 7-9-1.
(17) Mountain Island Charter 5, (16) Highland Tech 0: Mountain Island Charter moves on to a second-round matchup with top-ranked Union Academy. The Rams’ season ends at 7-8-1.
(7) Uwharrie Charter 7, (26) Piedmont Community Charter 0: The Patriots’ season ends at 7-6-1.
You can reach Joe Hughes at 704-914-8138, email email@example.com and follow on Twitter @JoeLHughesII.
This article originally appeared on The Gaston Gazette: East Gaston girls soccer pushes into second round of NCHSAA playoffs