Feeling pressure is inherent in being a soccer goalkeeper, but on Tuesday night, Pinecrest Academy’s Caroline Jeffcoat felt just a little more than usual.
The Paladins needed a victory to win their region, but not just any. If Pinecrest allowed just one goal against Providence Christian, their hopes of a No. 1 seed would vanish, and no amount of scoring on their end would matter. Jeffcoat knew that, but she had faith that her defense would step up in front of her.
For the most of the game, it did, but there were some close calls. With 3:20 left in the first half, Jeffcoat thought she corralled a shot, but the ball slipped out of her hands and began rolling to her left. The audible gasps in the stands turned to sighs of relief when the ball struck the post.
“It hit my hands and I thought I cleared it but it hit the sidebar,” Jeffcoat said. “I didn't want to open my eyes because I thought it went in the goal.”
Providence bounced a shot off the crossbar later in the game, but the Storm ultimately didn’t get a shot past Jeffcoat. Ivey Crain and the offense did the rest, securing a 7-0 win to claim Pinecrest’s first-ever girls soccer GHSA region championship.
“Even thought we can say we missed some goals, we scored seven today,” Pinecrest soccer coach Dominic Martelli said. “That was our focus coming in, finishing: not scoring goals, but finishing our chances. We had some decisions that could've been better in the final third.
“It's a great team effort. The girls earned it. This is a great region championship.”
Crain got the scoring started by converting on a one-on-one opportunity from the right side, giving Pinecrest a 1-0 lead with 28:23 left in the first half. Allie Doerr made it 2-0 just three minutes later by just squeezing a shot past the goalie and hitting the inside half of the post.
Meanwhile, Providence was having trouble just getting into Pinecrest’s half of the field. After Crain and Olivia Gannon added two more scores, the Paladins led 5-0 at the half.
“We were very nervous about it, but we knew if we kept scoring on them, that they would feel like they wouldn't score as much,” Crain said. “I think after we scored three or four and we kept it going, they didn't think they were going to score.”
After a slower start to the second half, Pinecrest’s Sofia Alvarez Del Pino made it 6-0, and Crain earned a hat trick three minutes later with her third goal of the match. Crain, just a freshman, has led Pinecrest’s offense all year, and will be looking to do the same thing during its upcoming playoff run.
“When you coach soccer, you can coach and outside back, you can teach a winger, you can coach a set of midfielders,” Martelli said. “You don't really coach that center forward. That's a position that you have to be born with, and she's born with that aggressive (mentality).”
The Paladins are a young group, certainly younger than last year’s squad that made the state semifinals. They’re not looking ahead that far, but Pinecrest knows it has the mental fortitude to make that kind of run again.
“The biggest thing is the confidence that they have now going into the playoffs,” Martelli said. “(They know) it's taken a lot of hard work and there's more work ahead of us.”
Providence Christian 3, Pinecrest Academy boys 0
Pinecrest's boys were looking to finish as region champions like their girls counterparts, but will likely be out of the playoffs entirely after their Tuesday loss to Providence. The Paladins needed a win and a Wesleyan win over Riverside Military Academy on Tuesday night to achieve that, but Pinecrest could not get the victory it needed on its own field.
The Storm scored the game's first goal with 18 minutes left in the first half, and the Paladins couldn't do enough to penetrate Providence's half of the field consistently. Providence took a 1-0 lead into halftime and scored two in the final period to secure the win.
Wesleyan won its matchup with Riverside, but with Pinecrest's three-point loss, their chances at owning a tiebreaker are slim.