REYNOLDS – Two girls soccer teams that brought state championships to Western North Carolina in 2015 squared off Wednesday night in East Asheville.
Defending NCHSAA 3-A champion Reynolds (6-1-3) played host to NCISAA 2-A winner Asheville Christian Academy (5-2-0) in the unprecedented matchup.
The Rockets won, 2-0.
From the start, Reynolds jumped out and dominated most of the possession, keeping the ball primarily in ACA’s defensive half. At 22 minutes in, the Rockets took the lead as senior Ashlyn Perkins played a short corner kick to fellow senior Kaley Cross, whose first-time shot took a deflection before going in, leaving Lions goalkeeper Sabrina Jones with no chance.
ACA struck back almost immediately. Only three minutes after Cross’s goal, Lions midfielder Emily Grice broke away on a counter-attack before being tripped in the penalty area by a Reynolds defender.
Grice took the resulting penalty kick, but Rockets goalkeeper Brooke Reaves stretched to make the initial save. Reaves then scampered back across the goal to save Grice’s follow up, denying the Lions an equalizer.
The Rockets controlled the first half, but only carried the slim 1-0 lead into halftime; ACA was far from out of the game.
In the second half, Grice had another breakaway opportunity in the 56th minute, but Reaves held strong once more to keep out the Lions and protect the Rockets’ lead. She finished with three saves.
Three minutes later, the Rockets’ leading goal-scorer, Christina Shimshock, weaved past two defenders and slotted home a left-footed shot off the post to extend the lead to 2-0. It was her 15th goal of the season in 10 games.
Reynolds saw off the last 20 minutes of the game without trouble.
Rockets coach Patrick Gladys was glad to see a shutout and a victory after a tough game against Asheville on Monday, which finished in a 2-2 draw.
“I think we played good enough to win. We expended a lot of energy Monday night, so our focus was on defense tonight. We wanted to get a shutout against a good opponent, something we have not done this year,” said Gladys.
Against such tough competition, he wanted defense to be the priority for his team in order to secure the victory.
“We just wanted to stay behind the ball, defend, and try to not run our forwards into the ground. I thought we did that. We could’ve had a bit more joy offensively, but it was good enough for the win. They are a good team; they’re going to do well again I’m sure,” said Gladys.
For ACA coach Terry Hughes, the Lions simply had too many good chances, including a penalty kick, for them to end up with a zero on the scoreboard.
“We have to finish. We’re not going to play teams quite that good, but we will have opportunities like that in the state tournament, and we’ve got to finish. (Reaves) did a fantastic job, and she is awesome, but we have to be more accurate and stronger, and really just better,” said Hughes.
No matter the result, things are looking bright for both defending state champions. ACA will come into conference play on April 5 with a strong record, while Reynolds is already off to an undefeated 2-0-1 record in the Mountain Athletic Conference and now has another big nonconference win under its belt.
WNC will be looking forward to more big accomplishments this season from the two reigning champs.