2017 Men’s Soccer Championship Recaps

1A Men’s Soccer Championship: Bishop McGuinness takes first crown with a 2-0 decision over Franklin Academy

RALEIGH – Franklin Academy dominated the possession and game for the majority of the first half, but a 33rd minute counter-attack strike lifted Bishop McGuinness to a 1-0 lead and eventually their first Men’s Soccer State Championship.

Franklin Academy had the Villains hemmed into their own end for most of the first 25 minutes, with Bishop McGuinness absorbing most of the pressure of the first half. Franklin Academy had a few chances, but not any that they could manage to put a shot on frame with any pace.

Ultimately it was a turnover and a transition moment that saw Cameron Bovender on the ball in the midfield. Bovender took a single dribble and threaded a ball to Brad Standen who poked it with his right foot around a defender and past the keeper for a 1-0 lead in the 33rd minute. Standen was named the game’s M.V.P.

Bishop gained confidence with the 1-0 lead and looked more comfortable on the ball in the second half. Franklin Academy had a few desperate attempts and as the Patriots pushed more men forward, Nathan Joseph got on the ball deep in the Patriot end, 1-on-1 versus a final defender. Joseph won the footrace to the ball and into the box, tracking the ball down just before it ran out on the endline. He chipped a ball across the front of the net and after an initial save by the Patriots goal keeper, Alan Linares pounded it home for a 2-0 lead in the 78th minute.

Franklin Academy finished the season 23-1-1, they were 12-0 in the North Central 1A where they were the league champions. The Patriots won the Eastern Regional for the second time in school history.

Bishop McGuinness completed the year 19-2-3, 5-1 in the Northwest 1A. The Villains won their second all-time and second consecutive Western Regional Championship. They captured the school’s first Men’s Soccer State Championship.

3A Men’s Soccer Championship: Chapel Hill gets a pair of second half goals to get by A.C. Reynolds 2-0

RALEIGH – Chapel Hill hasn’t won a State Championship in Men’s Soccer since 1983. The Tigers had an all-time record of 1-4 in their previous State Championship appearances, including a stinging 1-0 defeat by Marvin Ridge in last year’s 3A State Final. This year’s team, remembering that difficult defeat, finished the job with a 2-0 win over A.C. Reynolds.

The two teams battled to a scoreless stalemate at halftime, with neither side registering a shot on goal. A.C. Reynolds’ Izaiah Vignali had the most dangerous scoring opportunity of the first half as he cracked a shot a foot or two over the bar from about 30 yards out.

Chapel Hill got going with an offensive foray into the box turning into a corner kick opportunity in the 62nd minute. Ryan Smith went to the corner and sent in a beautiful out-swinging cross that found Justin Mecham who knocked it through traffic into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.

After some furious attempts by A.C. Reynolds, including a corner kick opportunity that saw Vignali take another crack from 20 yards out that was deflected out for another corner, Chapel Hill won a free kick deep in their own end with about two minutes to play. Mecham took the free kick and dropped a ball right on Smith in the edge of the penalty area from about 75 yards out and Smith one-touch volleyed the ball past the keeper to ice the Tiger victory.

A.C. Reynolds finished the season 23-3-2, they were 14-1-1 in the Western Mountain 3A where they were league champions. The Rockets won the Western Regional for the first time in school history and made their first State Championship game appearance.

Chapel Hill wrapped up the season 23-4-1, they were 12-1-1 as the champions of the Big 8 3A. The Tigers made the school’s sixth appearance in an NCHSAA Men’s Soccer State Championship game, winning the school’s second title all-time.

2A Championship: Newton-Conover slips past First Flight 1-0 for third title

RALEIGH – In an exciting and hard-fought battle, it was Newton-Conover that got the lone goal to win the school’s third State Championship in Men’s Soccer in the school’s history.

The two teams both showcased a very physical brand of soccer, each creating numerous chances throughout the game. First Flight peppered Newton-Conover keeper Jon Joplin all game, showering the sophomore with 15 shots, 11 of them on frame. Joplin stood firm, making all 11 required saves for the shutout.

The sparkling championship moment for the Red Devils came in the 58th minute as a clearance out of the Devil defense found the lone forward at the time, Francisco Tapia at midfield. Outnumbered 3-1, Tapia forced the issue, dribbling through the Nighthawk rear defenders and working the ball to his left foot. Tapia slotted a shot low and hard along the ground just to the left of the sprawling left foot of keeper Stryker Owens to give Newton-Conover a 1-0 lead.

Tapia’s goal made him the match M.V.P. and was the lone goal surrendered by the emergency keeper for First Flight. Owens was tapped as the starter when First Flight’s starting keeper, Lucas Neitherlander, sustained a hand injury during the pre-game warm-ups.

First Flight ended the season 21-2, with an 8-0 record in the Northeastern Coastal 2A where they were the champions of the league. They won the Eastern Regional for the second straight year and fourth time in school history.

Newton-Conover secured the school’s third State Championship in Men’s Soccer. The Red Devils season concluded with 27-0-2 with a perfect 14-0 record in the South Fork 2A. The Red Devils won the Western Regional title for the third time in school history and the first time since 2014.

4A CHAMPIONSHIP: Cardinal Gibbons nips Hough 2-1 to win their first 4A title

RALEIGH – In a 4A State Championship match that featured a lot of firepower on both sides, It was a corner kick in the 45th minute that made the ultimate difference, lifting Cardinal Gibbons to a 2-1 lead and eventually the school’s first 4A State Championship in Men’s Soccer.

With the score tied at 1, Gibbons earned a corner kick on a deep probing run into the box. Sal Bottone stepped into the corner to deliver the corner kick, dropping a beautiful in-swinging ball onto the back post where it found the waiting head of Jackson Hollenbach. The senior midfielder Hollenbach directed it on frame and into the back of the net with a flick of his head in the 45th minute, giving the Crusaders the decisive 2-1 lead.

Hollenbach also played a role in the Crusaders first marker of the game, when the Crusaders won possession in the Hough penalty area, Hollenbach slipped a pass to Jack Zarnik from the edge of the box. Zarnik danced by two Huskies defenders and slipped the ball off his right foot into the back of the net, breaking the ice in the 24th minute. Hollenbach was named the game’s M.V.P. with a goal and an assist.

Hough equalized the match just four minutes after the first Gibbons goal. Davis Ashbrook found Kyle Jeffrey who knocked home the goal that sent the match to halftime tied. Hough finished the season 24-2, they were 14-0 as champions of the I-Meck 4A Conference. Hough won their first Western Regional Final on their way to their first State Championship appearance.

Cardinal Gibbons concluded the season with a 23-0-2 record overall, they were 11-0-1 as the champions of the Cap 7 4A Conference. Gibbons appeared in their eighth state championship game in Men’s Soccer, and won the school’s sixth Men’s Soccer State Championship in all classifications.