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Soccer: Pinecrest girls top Athens Academy in duel of state heavyweights
Pinecrest Academy's Ivey Crain makes a turn in the box during the Paladins' game against Athens Academy on March 7, 2019 at Pinecrest Academy. - photo by Ian Frazer

By Josh Holland

For the Forsyth County News

Ivey Crain’s initial shot was just inches away from the net, but it rebounded off the crossbar. Thankfully for the Pinecrest Academy girls soccer team, the ball fell to Sofia Alvarez Del Pino, who tapped it in effortlessly.

This goal was just the beginning of the Paladins' dominant performance over Athens Academy, a defending state finalist, on Thursday night in a 3-0 win. The two sides faced off twice last season, with Athens winning both of those meetings 1-0, and Thursday's matchup again saw the two squads ranked among the best in the state.

“When you play them twice last year and lose both times 1-0, you almost put yourself in a situation where you’re thinking, ‘Are we ever going to score?'” Paladins head coach Domenic Martelli said after the game.

“Looking at the first half with the amount of chances, the second half with the amount of chances, and then to get that first goal was more of getting a goal and getting over that hump, versus winning the game.”

During the first half, neither side looked significantly better than the other. Both teams were creating chances, but the defense always managed to get the ball clear at the last moment to prevent any goals in the first half.

Pinecrest came close a couple of times, but an Athens defender was always there to block the shot.

In the second half Pincecrest came close just eight minutes in, as Crain found herself one-on-one with the Athens keeper. She placed her shot the one spot she couldn’t, making it an easy save to keep the scoreline level.

Pinecrest Academy's Sarah Brown looks for a target for a pass during the Paladins' game against Athens Academy on March 7, 2019 at Pinecrest Academy. - photo by Ian Frazer
However, only four minutes later the Paladins edged into the lead after Crain left the crossbar rattling and Alvarez Del Pino was there to finish.

“I was mad that it didn’t go right in and we had to follow it up.” Crain said afterwards. “I’m glad we got that first goal, because it helped us get the other two in because we really just need one goal to give us momentum.”

Crain went on to grab two more after her assist, including a slick counter that featured an inch perfect through ball from Meghan Sullivan.

“We haven’t given up a goal since our first game and that was two goals with an 8-2 win so we’ve played some really good teams and we have not given up a goal” Martelli said.

The Paladins’ all around dominant performance kept them undefeated at 8-0-0.

Athens Academy 2, Pinecrest Academy boys 1 (extra time)

In the first half of the second game of the night, both teams had spurts of possession where they looked like the better team. Pinecrest struck first with 21 minutes left in the first half through Nicolas Martelli, who finished off a spell of possession with a sublime finish from distance.

Athens Academy equalized four minutes later after a defensive error from the Paladins led to a great finish from Lewis Scruggs.

For the rest of regular time each team threatened, but always lacked the finishing quality to score. Once the game went to extra time at 1-1, Athens Academy were clearly the stronger side while Pinecrest were clinging to the hope of a penalty shootout.

With 1:30 left Athens Academy took a 2-1 lead and easily saw out the brief time remaining to take the win.

The Paladins fell to 5-3 on the season.