'Our goal is to go out there and represent Harnett Central'

Lady Trojans win AAC tourney, prep for first playoff bid since 2018

By DONNELL COLEY
Sports editor
Posted 5/12/22

After finishing second place in the All American Conference girls soccer regular-season standings, Harnett Central came into the tournament final Wednesday seeking validation.

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'Our goal is to go out there and represent Harnett Central'

Lady Trojans win AAC tourney, prep for first playoff bid since 2018

Posted

ANGIER — After finishing second place in the All American Conference girls soccer regular-season standings, Harnett Central came into the tournament final Wednesday seeking validation. 

Central coach Johnny Pilkington felt his team accomplished that with a resounding 5-0 shutout home win over fifth-seeded Overhills.

“Winning the conference tournament just caps off a good season for us,” he said after the group’s fifth straight victory.

“We thought we were the best team in the conference all season and for them to go through the tournament and win it, I think that demonstrates it.”

Powering the championship charge was Lady Trojans (16-4) midfielder Ava Hollingsworth, who netted a pair of first-half goals to help take a 2-0 lead at intermission.

The league’s points leader also finished with two assists, furthering her coach’s claim of being the best the AAC has to offer.

“She was the most skilled player and the most dominant out there, certainly offensively,” Pilkington said after awarding Hollingsworth tournament MVP honors.

Hollingsworth overpowered the competition with nine goals over three tourney games.

Arguably the most impressive score came during Tuesday’s semifinal victory over No. 3 seed Terry Sanford. With the score tied late in the second half, Hollingsworth flew past defenders down the left side and rocketed a shot from well outside the box to earn a 3-2 win.     

“To be honest, I just really wanted to win. I think we all just kind of had that mentality to get out there and do whatever we had to do,” she said of her hat trick performance.

With just short of 99 points on the year, Hollingsworth’s MVP accolade was almost a certainty.

But she added that the award is more a team accomplishment, as seen by their most recent inspired spurt.

“It felt really good. I definitely had to work for it,” Hollingsworth said. 

“It was definitely a group effort. I couldn’t have gotten any of the goals without connections made and plays made off of other people.”

Emily Parker has been one of the “others,” challenging Hollingsworth for the team lead in goals all year and punching home two more on Wednesday.

The senior striker also added an assist, which was her fourth during the tournament run.

Veronica Uhl also chipped in with a goal, just her third of the season, showcasing how dangerous and multi-dimensional the attack has been.

Now, Central awaits Friday when the North Carolina High School Athletic Association releases the postseason brackets.

It will be a first state playoffs appearance for many of the Lady Trojans, including Hollingsworth.

“It’s exciting because I think a lot of the girls wanted it, including myself,” she said.    

“Our goal is to go out there and represent Harnett Central and try to go as far as we can — and just prove ourselves.”

Donnell Coley can be reached at dcoley@mydailyrecord.com or 910-230-2040.

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