BOONE — The Watauga girls’ soccer team didn’t possess the ball nearly as much as visiting Weddington in the first round of the state 3-A playoffs at Jack Groce Stadium.
When Watauga got a chance to get close enough to score a goal, the Pioneers took full advantage. Bailey Whitehead-Price did the honors by scoring the only goal of the game, which gave the Pioneers a 1-0 victory on May 7.
Whitehead-Price scored on a Mary Louise Sprague assist with 23:06 left in the game. Sprague took a pass from a steal by Sadye Franklin and got the ball to Whitehead-Price, who took the ball to her left. Her shot went into the right side of the Weddington (8-8-3) goal.
It was Whitehead-Price’s 21st goal of the season.
“I didn’t do much of the work,” Whitehead-Price said. “It was a lot of Sayde playing a good ball and Mary Louise did most of the work. She got that out and then sent a perfect ball and all I had to do was put it in.”
Watauga, seeded 13th in the 3-A western bracket, did not get many clear chances at Weddington’s goal. Weddington, seeded 20th, possessed the ball for much of the first half, but whenever the Warriors got close enough to the Watauga goal for a shot, the Pioneers defense either clamped down on Weddington or Watauga goalkeeper Cailey Haas found a way to keep the ball out of the goal.
“They did have possession for a good bit,” Watauga coach Chris Tarnowski said. “We didn’t do a great job winning the 50-50s, especially in the first 20 minutes or so. We were just feeling them out and seeing what they were going to bring to the table.”
Tarnowski said it was important for the Pioneers to get the ball to Whitehead-Price and to Shaelyn Sheaff during counter attacks to generate offense.
“We were getting the ball and getting it in space,” Tarnowski said. “Whenever you have speed like Bailey Whitehead-Price and Shaelyn Sheaff on the outside, you get it to them.”
Haas preserved a first-half scoreless tie with two spectacular saves. Her first was a diving save to her left and the second was after a Weddington corner kick when she out-jumped a group of players from both teams to secure the ball and punt it away.
Another Weddington shot with 9:20 left that started as a loose ball in front of the Watauga net went safely over the crossbar and out of bounds. The Warriors’ final chance happened with 35 seconds left with another shot went over the Watauga goal.
Watauga was able to keep the ball away from Haas the rest of the game.
Weddington went into the game as the fifth-place team from the brutally tough Southern Carolina Conference. Seven of the eight teams in the SCC made the playoffs and Weddington outscored its opponents 48-25 during the season.
“They were really good,” Whitehead-Price said. “Give them a lot of credit. They’re a really good team and they definitely knew how to play a really good game of soccer. We definitely played up to their level. We have a really good level ourselves, but that really showed our strengths. We really stepped it up.”
Watauga also had to battle leg cramps that hit Ella Brown and Franklin late in the game.
The Pioneers reached the second round of the playoffs and face fourth-seeded Kings Mountain, a 3-0 winner over 29th-seeded St. Stephens, May 10.