A few minutes after their match against Northwood, the Corinth Holders players and coaches gathered for a picture. Everyone smiled and held up three fingers.
That’s the round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A girls soccer playoffs the Pirates are heading after a 2-0 win over Northwood Saturday night.
Corinth Holders (16-4-1) will visit Asheboro, a 4-1 winner over West Brunswick in the second round, next week.
“I’m going to get some research done here,” Corinth Holders coach Alison Vettrel said, when asked about facing the Blue Comets. “I’m going to be calling anybody I can. I’ve looked at their schedule, and there’s no one around here that’s played them.”
Northwood (14-6) didn’t make it easy on the Pirates.
The teams traded possession and hard tackles in a scoreless first half, and that theme carried over into the second half as well.
Corinth Holders’ Tessa Gladwell picked up a yellow card for a challenge on Ariel Glosson. That resulted in a strong reaction from a few parents and a lecture for both coaches from the referee.
“I just told them that they needed to stay together and keep playing hard,” Vettrel said. “It was going to be physical no matter what, because it’s do or die at this point. … At halftime, our thing was ‘keep going. It will come eventually.’”
In the 66th minute, it did just that.
The Pirates’ Rylee Bays stepped in front of a clearance attempt, secured the ball and dribbled it into the Northwood box. She ripped a shot into the lower right corner to stake the hosts to a 1-0 lead.
Two minutes later, Corinth Holders nearly doubled their lead when Sydney Gladwell found Anu Kane with a long ball. The freshman forced a sprawling save from Alexis Rolka to keep it at 1-0.
The Pirates kept the pressure on, and broke through again four minutes later.
Kane settled the ball in the middle of the field about 25 yards from the Charger goal, and then slipped a pass to Lexie Chase over on the right wing. Chase then lined up a shot from the edge of the box that sailed over Rolka and into the back of the net for a 2-0 advantage.
Northwood pushed extra attackers forward in the final minutes, but were unable to generate many clear-cut chances.
This will be the second consecutive season that the Pirates have reach the third round. Last season, they fell to Fike, 2-1, and will be hoping to advance farther this time around.
“It’s the heart,” Vettrel said. “And it’s the focus. They are ready. It was a tough situation when we got knocked out. I still remember the exact time frame of getting knocked out, and it kind of makes it bittersweet. We just need to push. If we can get that extra push through, we’ll be good to go.”