McElroy's hat trick lifts Middle Creek past Heritage
Posted May 18
Apex, N.C. — Middle Creek senior Kylie McElroy notched a hat trick to lead the Mustangs past Heritage, 3-1, Wednesday night in the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A girls soccer state playoffs.
Both squads failed to find the back of the net early in the contest, but neither team was short of scoring chances.
Heritage junior Michaella Arteta tallied the first quality chance of the contest with a shot from the penalty arc that pounded the center of the crossbar in the 8th minute of play.
Husky teammate Alcenia Purnell nearly scored in the 30th minute after stealing the ball away from a Mustang defender, but the sophomore was stopped at the doorstep by Middle Creek goaltender Caroline Lauer.
Middle Creek finished the first half with several chances in the final 20 minutes but Heritage sophomore keeper Silya Bennai kept the game scoreless.
Scoring became a surplus in the second half – and quickly – with the first of McElroy’s three goals coming on a deflection just five minutes in.
McElroy was in the right place at the right time again only a minute later, settling a rebound and burying the ball into an open left side of the net.
Despite the two quick scores, the Mustangs – for the second-straight game – had soccer’s most dangerous lead – a two-goal advantage.
“They’re a dangerous team; if you let up just a second and you make a mistake, they’re going to capitalize on it,” said Middle Creek head coach Guy Coleman. “Any team that’s this far is probably able to do that. You can’t make any mistakes in the backfield, and that will be crucial against [Cardinal] Gibbons or Green Hope."
The all-important third goal was scored by Heritage on a set piece in the 51st minute by Arteta to cut the Mustangs’ lead to one score.
Sophomore Hayley Boyles took the kick from just outside the right corner of the penalty box, which deflected off the hands of Lauer and onto the foot of Arteta for a wide-open finish.
Heritage had back-to-back quality chances for the equalizer in the latter stages of the second half, including a sequence where a Husky forward was taken down inside the penalty area, but no call was made.
“There’s one thing we know, it’s that we can’t dictate who’s making the calls on the field; they did a good job,” said Heritage head coach Scott Sloan “I’m going to say that’s on that could’ve gone their way, but I’m sure there are opportunities where Middle Creek could be screaming on the opposite side for something.
“Did we want that call? Sure, but it didn’t happen, so we move on.”
McElroy, who was in the right place at the right time once again, made the Huskies pay with her third goal on the Mustangs’ next trip down the field to secure the victory for Middle Creek.
Mustang junior Avery Sweet connected with McElroy in the 77th minute to regain the two-goal advantage and ice the match to advance in the playoffs.
McElroy, who scored nine goals in six games in last year’s playoff, is on a similar streak this postseason with six goals in three games.
“We just have to get the ball to her and get those crosses across the six, and hopefully she’ll get there,” Coleman said. “She’s healthy and she’s ready to roar right now.”
Middle Creek (15-5-3, 11-3-2 SWAC) will travel to Cardinal Gibbons (20-1-1, 12-0 PAC 6) on Saturday for a fourth-round matchup at 7 p.m. in Raleigh.