This year's Harnett County Girls Soccer Kickoff championship was decided early as two rivals went head to head in the title game Wednesday.
ANGIER — Despite surrendering a goal in the opening minutes of Wednesday’s title match, Harnett Central powered its way to a 4-1 win over visiting Triton to win the Harnett County Girls Soccer Kickoff.
Central (2-0) coach Johnny Pilkington saw his group get a 7-3 victory over Smithfield-Selma during the opening round Monday, and enjoyed his players’ enthusiasm about the tourney’s return after a brief hiatus last season.
“I thought I’d bring it back this year ... it’s a big deal to the kids,” he said. “It’s exciting anytime you win. It’s a little bit more exciting to beat Triton.”
The Lady Hawks (1-1) reached the final with a close 2-1 victory over Western Harnett on Monday. Emily Mendez used a hard strike from outside the box to give Triton an early 1-0 advantage Wednesday.
But it would be the visitors’ final score as Central controlled the action and created various opportunities for its offense.
“We were in attack so much more because our midfield was dominant. And our backs were stepping up to the ball ... a proactive defense goes a long way,” Pilkington said, highlighting the play of wings Galilea Ruiz and Sinai Avalos Beltran.
Emily Parker, who was named tournament MVP, and Ava Hollingsworth benefited from the play in the back as each netted two goals.
Parker’s first score knotted things at 1, then she rocketed a left-footed strike to the net close to 32 minutes into the contest.
Meanwhile, Hollingsworth gave the Lady Trojans a 3-1 halftime advantage when she converted a rebound off a side shot from Parker with just 1:34 left.
“We both play club ball, so I guess it’s easy for us to work off each other,” Parker said of her pairing with Hollingsworth as the duo has accounted for 10 of the team’s 11 goals this season.
“It’s going pretty good. I’m excited to see where it takes us.”
Hollingsworth’s final score came inside the opening 10 minutes after halftime and sealed early bragging rights with All American Conference play on the horizon.
“The biggest thing is, it lets us see what we need to work on,” Pilkington said, noting the mental adjustments his team made throughout the week as being most important.
“The tournament helps prepare us when we start the conference next week.”
On Tuesday, March 8, Central hosts Western, who inched past SSS in penalty kicks during the third-place game, while Triton opens league play at Overhills.
Hollingsworth had a game-high two assists, while Parker and Avalos Beltran each added one. Kate Cochran had the lone assist for Triton and Nicole House finished with a game-leading nine saves.
Donnell Coley can be reached at email@example.com or 910-230-2040.