PILOT MOUNTAIN — The 2017 East Surry soccer program is making history, one playoff victory at a time.
The next time the Lady Cardinals suit up, they will be somewhere that no East Surry girls’ soccer player has ever been before, in the fourth round of the 1A state playoffs.
East Surry, the lowest seed in the elite eight of the playoffs at No. 16, edged 23rd-seeded Pine Lake Preparatory Academy 2-0 on Wednesday night in the third round of the postseason tournament. The Lady Cardinals (13-7) had never been this far in the playoffs until last year, and their victory over the Pride (10-12) puts them into the fourth round for the first time.
The match belonged to the Cardinals, who won their ninth straight since being 4-7 at midseason, from the very beginning.
“It is amazing that we are this far, because it started with us. When our freshman class came up, there were originally nine of us, and we have made history every single year, and we are the four that are left,” said senior Maggie Collins, the goalkeeper who claimed her third straight playoff shutout by blanking the Pride.
Fellow senior Mary Jo Lowe made her impression on the third round of the state playoffs less than two minutes into competition, at the 38:19 mark with Karlee Easter on the assist. The next goal for the Cardinals came 20 minutes later, this time with Easter finding the net herself. At the half, East Surry held a 2-0 lead.
Both squads opened up the second half hot, but held one another scoreless throughout the last 40 minutes of action. However, the two first-half goals, coupled with Collins’ shutout, kept East Surry’s improbable journey through this year’s playoffs alive.
Pine Lake Preparatory had no answer for the Lady Cardinals. East Surry started just as hot and cohesive as they had finished.
“It is great how quickly we started communicating, at first we were all over the place and not really passing the ball, but when playoffs came everything changed, we started communicating and it has been great,” said senior Laura Ruiz.
The Lady Cardinals have shut out six consecutive opponents, five on the field and one by forfeit. After shutting out Walkertown, taking a forfeit from the Wolfpack, and then blanking North Stokes to end the regular season, No. 17 Mountain Island Charter was derailed by a 6-0 score in the first round of the playoffs. No. 2 East Montgomery went down 5-0 in the second round. Lowe passed her 100th career goal mark on Saturday versus East Montgomery, and added her 101st on Wednesday night.
“I have never been happier to be part of a team that has come together so well as we have this year, and it feels great,” said Lowe.
“We came out really hard, and scored an early goal, and I think that rallied them a little bit which allowed us to get the next goal, but then Pine Lake Preparatory’s defense really tightened up,” said East Surry head coach Neal Oliver. “We made a lot of great passes, and connected pretty well. It is a good win, but not our best match.”
“I am just really honored to work with these four girls, there is no connection like there is between us four, because we have been through it all, all four years,” said senior Carley Elliott.
The Lady Cardinals are one step further in the postseason than where their season ceased last year. Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy defeated the Lady Cardinals in the third round last year by a 5-1 mark. East also claimed the distinction of being the last traditional public school still standing in the West, and one of just three in the 1A playoffs’ elite eight.
In a match that was slated to start 30 minutes earlier than East Surry’s today, No. 5 Gray Stone Day defeated No. 14 Starmount by a 4-1 decision and will host the Lady Cardinals this Saturday in the fourth round of the 1A Women’s Soccer State Playoffs at 7 p.m. Gray Stone (15-3-2) was the co-champion of the Uwharrie Athletic Conference.