South Point soccer falls to Jacksonville on PKs after 4 OTs in NCHSAA 3A state final

South Point came so close.

The Red Raiders battled a stout Jacksonville High team throughout regulation and four overtime periods. They even came within a penalty kick of victory.

They pushed the Cardinals, who had surrendered just nine goals all season entering Saturday afternoon’s NCHSAA 3A state soccer final, as much as they could have.

But Jacksonville’s 3-2 win in a penalty-kick shootout lifted the Onslow County school to the state championship. South Point lost in the state final for the second straight season.

“They fight all the time,” South Point head coach Richard Lewandowski said of his players. “They do not give up. All season, they’ve been playing hard, and of course in the last game, we had a lot of time on the field. They did a great job.”

South Point (18-2-2) battled Jacksonville (19-1-4) to a stalemate at the end of regulation — and eventually four overtime periods — in a tightly-contested match Saturday afternoon at Mecklenburg County SportsPlex.

The Red Raiders were out-shot throughout the afternoon, but their stellar defense continually turned away the Cardinals’ high-powered offense.

Jacksonville, which last reached the 3A title match in 2016, had outscored opponents 117-9 entering Saturday’s game.

Breaking down the action

The sides were scoreless after regulation.

Both teams got good shots off, and South Point had several strong chances. Its closest came shortly after opening touch when a shot caromed off the left post.

Jacksonville kept pushing and gave itself opportunities to score — even bouncing three promising shots off the cross bar late in regulation. It even appeared to have the game-winner with just over eight minutes left in regulation, but the goal was waved off.

The action stayed tight as overtime began. The Cardinals were, once again, outnumbering their opponents’ shots — but South Point pushed in the backfield.

Jacksonville had a final chance to win on a penalty kick with five seconds left in the first overtime. But the shot was stopped.

The Cardinals’ attack peppered their opponent with shots during the second and third overtime periods. South Point drew a penalty shot late in the second, but Jacksonville’s defense took care of it.

“We expected that,” Lewandowski said about Jacksonville’s offense. “So we prepared for that. We tried to keep our shape and limit their chances. They scored a lot of goals this year, and I’m proud of our girls.”

Worth mentioning

South Point, originally known as Belmont High School, was attempting to win its first girls soccer state championship.

It reached the 3A title match last spring as well, falling to Eastern Alamance in a 4-0 loss.

The Red Raiders had won 17 straight matches entering Saturday.

They said it

“It’s an old saying in soccer, an old moniker, that says: Pressure, cover, balance. We need to pressure the ball and support. And that’s what they did.” — South Point head coach Richard Lewandowski

PHOTOS: South Point vs. Jacksonville