After clinching the Division III, District 8 Championship on Friday, the Northlake Christian girls soccer team could have rested on its laurels and eased into the rapid approaching state playoffs.
But that’s not exactly what the state’s top-ranked Division III team did on Tuesday evening against district rival Hannan. Northlake had to battle the Hawks, the division’s fifth-ranked team, until the very end. It wasn’t Northlake’s most crisp effort, but it was enough for the Wolverines to eke out a 1-0 home victory over Hannan in Covington.
Kate White scored the only goal when she drove up the left side of the Hannan box in the 36th minute and bumped a shot off Hannan goalkeeper Courtney St. John. The deflection rolled into the right corner of the net just before halftime.
Northlake (13-1-4, 6-0-1) needed the momentum, because Hannan fought back gamely in the second half. After being outshot 7-2 before halftime, Hannan (16-4-1, 2-4) outshot Northlake 5-3 in the second half.
“The defense has been working hard, and the middle backs really have been doing well,” Northlake goalie Lexie White said. “There are a lot of good teams in the district. Every match is hard work.”
Hannan coach Jerry Kennedy knew that coming into the match.
“We just had that one breakdown on defense,” Kennedy said. “We have four of the top seven teams in the state playing in this district. This team has shut us out twice now, which says something about their strength, because we’ve scored at least two goals in every other match, I think.”
Acknowledging the match might be decided on defense, Kate White said it was important to take advantage of any chances the Wolverines had. She did on the scoring play, and it was enough to seal the win.
“(Coach Nick Chetta) keeps telling me I was gifted with speed and I need to use it,” she said. “We just have to keep working hard.”
The Wolverines attempted four shots on goal in the first 24 minutes but none found the net. Their closest attempt came on a free kick from just outside of the Hannan box by Cassidy Arcement. The sophomore fired the ball to the top left corner, but St. John guessed correctly and deflected the shot with her hands and chest just before it passed into the goal.
The match remained scoreless for another 12 minutes despite Northlake’s consistent offensive attack, and one solid look at goal by Hannan’s Hannah Duplechain from 20 yards out. Her hard-hit shot was off the crossbar, though, which kept the score at zero before White’s goal.
Hannan had another good look in the 60th minute when Elizabeth Frank cracked the right side of Northlake’s defense and crossed a ball toward the Wolverines’ net. The ball careened off a teammate, however, and dribbled over the backline, giving Northlake possession. Seven minutes later, Estefania Harvey tightened on the Northlake box and drilled a shot that landed just wide of the net. She had another shot miss in the 73rd minute.
It was that kind of night for Hannan — one on which Northlake coach Nick Chetta said his own team “let emotion get to them.”
“After winning district on Friday against Pope John Paul (II), there was a lot of energy,” he said. “I think the emotion worked against them tonight. The team has never been a top-five seed, much less a No. 1 one seed in the playoffs, which they may be this year. So they have to understand the experience and know that every team they play is going to come after them because they’re ranked number one.”
NORTHLAKE CHRISTIAN 8, HANNAN 1: Mason Cook scored three first-half goals (four total) for the Wolverines in a home rout of their Division III, District 8 rival Tuesday in Covington.
Clayton Gill and Joe Mackenzie also scored in the first half for the Wolverines, who led 5-0 at halftime. Cook, Gill and Nathan Pearl scored again in the second half. Hannan’s goal came in the 51st minute via Avery Ferrera.
Like the girls, Northlake’s boys (13-1-6, 7-0) also are the top-ranked team in the state’s Division III power rankings. The boys can complete an undefeated district slate with a win over Pine on Friday.
Hannan is now 9-6-2, 2-4.