It seems like every time North Surry’s soccer team takes the field this season, it makes some sort of program history.
East Surry played its final match of the season like they were tired of hearing about it.
The Lady Cardinals put up a spirited fight on the Lady Hounds’ Senior Night, but North Surry came back from an early deficit and held on for a 2-1 victory on Wednesday evening.
East Surry, which entered the match as the only local team not to lose to North this season, came out attacking and took a 1-0 lead in the second minute on a goal by Chloe Hunter. The Lady Hounds had to circle the wagons and pick up two goals later in the first half, by Michelle Leyva and Leslie Ramirez, to secure a 2-1 lead at the break. North honored seniors Adaly Hernandez, Brenda Hernandez and Leyva at halftime, then battled through fatigue in the second half to claim the win.
North Surry completes the regular season with an overall record of 13-7-1. The Lady Hounds beat all three county rivals for the first time in a single season, crushed the school’s previous single-season wins record for girls’ soccer, and will go to the state playoffs for the first time ever.
“This is brand-new territory for us,” said North Surry head coach Julie Gammons, who has led the program, along with boys’ head coach Eric Jessup, during a season where she has been getting treatment for cancer all season. “It’s been amazing to watch this group do what they’re doing. Coach Jessup stepped in when I needed some help, and he’s been an amazing influence on the girls. The girls have responded in ways that I could not be more proud of.”
Due to postponements in the last few weeks, North was playing for the fifth time in seven days and third consecutive night. Less than 24 hours earlier, the Lady Hounds had faced defending 2A West Regional champ West Stokes, ranked No. 9 in the state, and lost 2-0.
The Lady Cardinals didn’t care about that. They came out with guns blazing and Hunter put them on the board a little over a minute into the match.
North Surry, which played to a 1-1 deadlock with East back on March 9, again found itself back on its heels against a Lady Cardinal team which endured a rebuilding year but still had its pride. In the 10th minute, Leyva, who had an outstanding game in the midfield for the Lady Hounds, found the back of the net and pulled her team even.
North soon began to get the upper hand on the field and started delivering long passes into the East end of the field, but sweepers Sophie Lowe and Grace Montgomery, along with keeper Abby Key, were up to the task and managed to clear most everything. Finally, in the 28th minute, Ramirez managed to settle a ball near the East goal and blasted a shot which caromed off the hands of Key and trickled a few feet into the net before Key recovered it. It took a moment before the official ruled it a goal, but no one argued and the Lady Hounds held a 2-1 lead.
Ramirez and Key collided on a long ball in the 35th minute where the latter had to come out of the goal to challenge a breakaway. Ramirez was slightly shaken up but was able to continue.
North had its Senior Night ceremony at intermission, but assistant coach Eric Jessup knew his team was already tired and just encouraged them to play as hard as they could for 40 more minutes.
The Lady Hounds’ Natalie Slate blasted a long ball just over the East goal from 40 yards out in the 51st minute, and Adaly Hernandez did the same from about 15 yards in the 59th minute. At the 60-minute mark, the Lady Cardinals began to take control in the midfield and up front, and put the home team back on defense. At 61 minutes, Haley Noel got a run down the middle of the field and Leyva had to drop back and clear the ball from inside the 18-yard box. East Surry move it right back down and Michelle Ramos booted it out of danger, but the Lady Cardinals kept coming. In the 64th minute, Mariana Flores had a well-placed shot from about 16 yards and tried to angle it into the top-left corner of the goal, but North keeper Emma Burnett moved to her left and snared it to keep her team ahead.
“Emma is a freshman, and she has improved every week this season,” said Jessup. “She’s a big part of the success we’ve had.”
Despite being under heavy pressure for several minutes, Lady Hound backliners Melissa Mendoza, Ramos and Ashley Elias held up, and in the last 10 minutes of the match, things began to go North’s way once more. The home team had the ball for most of the last few minutes, and Adaly Hernandez nearly ended her final home appearance with a flourish, blasting a ball hard off the crossbar with 23 seconds left.
But she didn’t need that goal — it would have been her 40th of the season — to earn the love and appreciation of her coach.
“We’ve been together since their first day as freshmen,” said Gammons of her three seniors, who stuck with the program through three losing seasons before rewriting North Surry soccer history this spring. “Miss does not even come close to how I feel about those three. How do you replace irreplaceable players?”
After winning four matches in seven days — North Surry hadn’t won that many in a whole season since the seniors were in middle school — the Lady Hounds will take the rest of the week off and await the announcement of the NCHSAA 2A playoff bracket, and one more “first” for a team that has already had so many.