Lady Jackets start slow, then rout First Flight

May 15—This year, it was First Flight that had to make the long bus ride. It will be Lee County that rides into the second round.

The Lady Jackets have, purely by coincidence, been paired up with the Nighthawks in the first round of the NCHSAA 3A state playoffs in each of the past two seasons. Last year, it was First Flight that had the higher seed, and Lee had to make a 243-mile trip to Kill Devil Hills, only for the Nighthawks to end their season.

The tables turned this season and First Flight had to make the ride, but the Nighthawks showed no signs of wear as they came out strong against Lee and played them to a scoreless tie through more than 25 minutes of the first half.

But then the Lady Jackets took over, getting three quick goals in the latter part of the first half and adding three more in the second for a 6-0 victory and a trip to the second round.

If MaxPreps records are accurate, the match marked the first playoff victory in Lee County women's soccer history. Lee has been a regular participant in the playoffs for several years, but has usually received an unfavorable draw and not been able to advance. This season, the Lady Jackets won more games than any other public school in the state, which earned them a first-round match at home.

Lee (22-4 overall) was aggressive from the start against the visitors, pushing forward off the opening kickoff and controlling possession roughly three-quarters of the time in the early going. The team had a number of near-misses from Ava Baldwin, Lila Moshfegh, and Gillian Garrison in the early going and was also strong at the other end of the field, where the Nighthawks tried to mount counterattacks off the strong legs of its back-end defenders, who regularly cleared balls 50-plus yards in the other direction.

However, it became clear that Lee's attack was able to get the better of the First Flight defense, and the pressure on them rose after the 15-minute mark. Lee finally broke through with a goal in minute 28, then drove the Nighthawks back after the kickoff and forced a foul that led to a penalty kick and a 2-0 lead after 31 minutes of play. A third goal in minute 37 left the Lady Jackets in command as the teams went to halftime.

Lee dominated the second half and scored three more times to win going away on a night where keeper Diana Ponce needed only to make four saves. Garrison, in what may have been her final appearance at Paul Gay Stadium, scored four goals and had one assist. Baldwin scored the other two goals, while assists were credited to her, Moshfegh, Lily Currin, and Brittany Guerrero Montiel.

It marked the 13th time this season that Lee County shut out an opponent.

The Lady Jackets will face a challenging second-round opponent in Quad-County 3A Conference champion Hunt (16-4-1) Thursday evening at 6 p.m. The Warriors scored a 4-0 win over Croatan in Monday's first round and have a virtually identical MaxPreps rating to Lee, with both teams ranked in the top seven. Hunt has won nine in a row and Lee has won eight straight. Both teams played Middle Creek and Union Pines this season; the Warriors lost to MC and drew with the Lady Vikings, while Lee also lost to the Mustangs and is 2-1 this season against Union Pines.

Whoever wins this match may well face Union Pines yet again, as the Lady Vikings are the 5 seed in the other half of the pod, hosting Dixon.