Courtesy Nick Denning
Wilmington, NC - After falling behind 1-0 in the first half, Cape Fear women's soccer scored three second half goals to defeat Harford Community College, 3-1, and win the District L Championship for the first time in school history. Sophomores Alyssa Coustenis and Jenna Pecorini, along with freshman Alaina Capps, scored for the Sea Devils.
The game was very even in the first half. Both teams were strong defensively in the early minutes. They would trade portions of possession, but were unable to turn any of it into scoring chances.
That would change in the 10th minute, when Harford's MacKenzie Wills would beat Cape Fear's defenders to the ball in the box. Before she could shoot, however, freshman goalkeeper Elizabeth Ethridge would make a sliding save with her feet to prevent the shot on goal.
On the other end, Cape Fear would have two early shots on goal, but neither threatened the keeper. Still, they were creating solid attacks and threatening the Owls in their own half.
Ethridge would make another solid save in the 20th minute after Harford took a shot from straight on outside the box. While it was a routine save, it was a warning sign for the Sea Devils, who were now being pinned back in their own half. To their credit, the Sea Devils were playing more defensively, and were looking to catch Harford out on the counter.
Pecorini would come closest to scoring for Cape Fear in the first half. She would find space in front of goal in the 26th and 34th minutes, but neither shot would trouble the keeper.
While the game remained close, the Owls would take the lead just before halftime. Ethridge would race to beat Harford's Wills to the ball, but would collide with freshman Celene Jacobi Barham, and Wills would collect the ball and score on an open net. They would go into halftime leading 1-0.
At halftime, Cape Fear adjusted their style of play to push further up the field. As assistant coach Chris Murray said afterwards: "At halftime we re-evaluated some things we saw in the first half. We did the defensive side of things very well, and we needed to transition from being more defensive to attacking in the final third."
While the Sea Devils looked to play more aggressively, Harford controlled the early moments of the second half, creating three shots on goal in the few first minutes. Cape Fear attempted to play long balls from their own half, but found it difficult to maintain possession. However, their play would steadily improve as time went on, and they would begin pressuring Harford higher into their own half.
The pressure would pay off in the 56th minute. Coustenis would get free on the right side of the box, and beat the keeper near post to tie the game at 1-1. The goal ignited the team and the crowd, and play began to open up on both ends.
The open play would favor the Sea Devils, and in the 61st minute, Pecorini would be played onside by a stellar through ball. She'd dribble past two defenders on a breakaway, and would send a shot past the keeper to put Cape Fear up 2-1.
Play settled down a bit afterwards, but Cape Fear remained in control. They would create a few solid chances in the next few minutes, with Pecorini and freshman Sierra Raynor combining on the left wing.
Harford would threaten with a dangerous corner kick in the 69th minute, but Ethridge would rise above Harford's forwards and secure the ball. The Owls would continue applying pressure, but the Sea Devils' defense would do just enough to prevent an equalizer.
The final 15 minutes made for exciting soccer. Harford would counter with pressure of their own as they looked for an equalizer. However, Raynor continued to create opportunities on the left, while freshman Janessa Annis was instrumental in the center of the field, dribbling past defenders and pushing the ball forward.
Cape Fear's strong forward play would secure the win in the 80th minute. Raynor would play a ball to Alaina Capps, who would turn past the defender in the box and score to give her team 3-1 cushion.
The Sea Devils continued to apply pressure, and Coustenis would nearly make it 4-1 in the 85th minute. Harford would attempt a comeback, but would be unable to score, and Cape Fear would go on to take the victory.
As time expired, the Cape Fear bench cleared and rushed the field to celebrate as the home crowd cheered them on from the stands. Soon after, they would be presented with the District L Championship plaque, and would celebrate near the home side stands.
After the game, both the coaches and players only needed a few words to sum up their feelings on the win.
Head coach Ryan Deppa described it as, "pretty awesome" while pointing to the celebrations going on down on the field.
When asked how it felt to win the district championship, Coustenis described it as the, "best feeling in the whole world."
Asked what it took for her team to come back and win in the second half, Pecorini stated, "It took a lot of heart. We dug deep, and we worked as a team to get it done."
The Sea Devils improved to 17-1 on the season with the win.