By Pete Zamplas- T.C. Roberson is the state runner-up in 3A women’s soccer, advancing further in playoffs than other spring varsity high school team in Buncombe and its neighboring counties.
The Lady Rams (23-5) fell to East Chapel Hill (20-2-2) Wildcats by 2-0 this past Saturday (2 wks ago) in Raleigh, in their sixth playoff game in this month. But that was one level better than nearby Hendersonville, which was next-best among area spring squads.
Both teams played state semifinals at home, on May 21. HHS (23-1-1) lost. When its season ended, a few miles away TCR was into overtime into its most exciting playoff match.
The West Region crown was at stake, with third seed TCR hosting Northern Guilford Nighthawks (20-2-1). Head coach Josh Martin’s Lady Rams stormed back, from a 2-0 deficit halfway into the do-or-die second half. Two sophomores each scored, to tie the game at two as TCR reestablished ball control and offensive pressure.
First Isabelle Ingle (19), a striker forward, headed the ball into the net. Ingle had scored two of TCR’s goals in a 3-0 win over arch-rival A.C. Reynolds in round three. Then Maddie Luckett tied it, against Northern Guilford.
Each team scored once in the final ten minutes of regulation. The Hawks led 3-2. But TCR again evened it. Co-captain Hope Ingram (22), a senior midfielder, did the honor.
The teams were tied at three, when heading into a pair of 10-minute, non-sudden death periods. Roberson prevailed 5-3. Dramatic goals were by Luckett with a second left in the first OT, then in the second OT’s final minute as senior co-captain Caroline Hemphill’s shot found the net.
It took the Hawks’ 40-goal scorer, Hayley Magnussen, to snap TCR senior goalkeeper Amber Gay’s playoff shutout streak of four games. Gay shut out foes in 17 of TCR’s 23 victories. Magnussen scored the game’s first two goals, but could not score in OT when it mattered most.
In contrast to the scoring barrage, Roberson’s prior win was a 1-0 nail-biter over Cuthberson. Hemphill scored the sole goal. She credited the team’s other 20-plus goal scorer, Luckett, for a “great cross (pass) by Maddie” to provide a shot at some open net. As Coach Martin said, “we got the goal that we needed” with tenacious play.
The initial playoff wins were 5-0 over Monroe Piedmont, 3-0 over Winston-Salem Mount Tabor, then 3-0 over Reynolds.
In the state title game, Hope Ingram came close to scoring for Roberson, as her free kick sailed a bit wide left of the net, according to WLOS-TV footage. The game started two hours late, at 10 p.m. Saturday, as three prior state title games on the same field each went beyond regulation.
Roberson blasted its first three foes by 8-0 or 9-0, and won five times by a 9-0 tally. TCR’s biggest soccer output in ’19 was in a 10-1 win at North Henderson.
TCR was state runner-up for the seventh time. Always looming as a title threat “give us a nice edge” in playoffs, Coach Martin said.
Hendersonville like TCR still looks for its first women’s soccer state title, but came close this spring. They played each other, on April 26. Smaller but quick HHS handed TCR one of its four regular-season defeats, by 2-1 at home. Eight of Roberson’s 26 players are 5-foot-8 or taller. Nine are seniors.
Roberson (15-1) won the WMAC by a game over A.C. Reynolds (14-2; 20-3-3 overall), its recent arch-rival in many sports (i.e. baseball, soccer, tennis) that TCR used to dominate in WNC. Roberson drew blood first, winning 4-2 at Reynolds. But ACR evened the series, winning 2-1 in OT in Skyland May 1, to close the soccer regular season.
The teams met again May 15, in playoff round three — with much more on the line. Roberson won that battle, by 3-0 at home. Up to then, it was TCR’s most rewarding conquest. TCR controlled the middle of the field. Defense shined, in the first soccer shutout of ACR by any team in ’19.
Senior midfielder Reagan Hakes scored within the game’s first two minutes. She smashed a shot beyond he 18-yard mark. Ingle scored a goal in each half. First, she slid to beat others to the ball in a scramble for Hemphill’s corner kick in front of the net, and knocked it in. Later she lit up the scoreboard again, one-timing Hemphill’ crossing pass.
Ironically, 11th seed ACR won by that same 3-0 score in its first two playoff matches — over Forestview then at Hickory.
Asheville (13-3; 17-5-1) was third in the MAC, and bowed out in round two. But the Lady Cougars tied Hendersonville 2-2, and lost by a mere goal twice to TCR. The first time was in a shootout after a 1-1 deadlock on April 1 (no foolin’). The other AHS loss to TCR was a 1-0 clash, at Asheville a week later.
In the WMAC, Tuscola was fourth at 10-6. Enka at 8-8 was fifth, in the middle of WNC’s elite nine-school league.