There have already been plenty of remarkable achievements for the Cedar Ridge women’s soccer team this year.

They now have 14 wins, more than the 2018 squad that had freshman Ivy Garner, who now plays at Liberty University.

On Monday night, the Red Wolves won its first home playoff game since 2005.

Junior Katie Paulakonis scored two goals in the opening eight minutes as the Red Wolves defeated Richlands 3-1 at Red Wolves Stadium. Freshman Kate Finnegan assisted on the opening two goals.

The Red Wolves, seeded #16, will face conference rival Western Alamance in the second round in Elon. The Warriors defeated another Central Conference team, Walter Williams 6-2 on Monday.

Cedar Ridge’s last home win in the state playoffs came back in 2005 when they were a 2A team. They defeated Durham School of the Arts 2-0 to move into the state quarterfinals, where they fell to Western Guilford. That Red Wolf team finished 16-1-1.

This Cedar Ridge team is now the most successful team since that squad from 19 years ago.

Much of the credit goes to first-year head coach Sam Semerzier, who now had the Red Wolves on a four-game home winning streak.

“Given the passion of this team, I thought this was possible at the beginning of the year,” Semerzier said after Cedar Ridge’s win over Williams last week, which ended the regular season. “They had the thirst to thrive. They had the urge to win from the first time I met them. Everything that was burning in their hearts in coming to life now.”

Cedar Ridge’s last playoff win came in 2018, when they defeated West Carteret 3-0 in Morehead City.

The Red Wolves scored on its first possession just 80 seconds into the game. As the Wildcats tried to mount an attack, centerback Adelynn Nasseri cut off a pass and cleared the ball upfield to Kate Finnegan. As Paulakonis went on a mad dash past the midfield line, Finnegan kneed the ball past a Wildcat midfielder and directed a gorgeous longball ahead. Paulakonis’ won a race against Richland centerback Ester Zapata and had only goalkeeper Abbigail Kaestner in front of her. Paulakonis’ dribbled around Kaestner and, with a tight angle, directed the ball towards the net with her left field. The ball rolled tenuously along the line before it crossed over just as it tapped the far post.

Cedar Ridge goalkeeper Ellamarie Perel stopped an immediate response from 20 yards away by sophomore Kamrey Watkins, who finished the season with 34 goals.

The Red Wolves would strike again only three minutes later when Paulakonis took a deep throw-in from midfield and banked it off Finnegan’s corner went directly into the nine-yard box, where Paulakonis curved through unmarked and sent a half-volley directly to the back of the net for what turned out to be the game-winning goal with 35:23 remaining in the first half.

Paulakonis nearly had a hat trick on a free kick knuckleball from 23 yards away with 21:30 remaining in the first half that nearly cleared Kaestner’s head below the crossbar, but it sailed over the net.

Watkins provided the Wildcats in the best chance in the opening 40 minutes when midfielder Torrie McAllister stripped the ball away in Richlands’ attacking end and fed Watkins, who cut across midfield and got past Natasha Buchler-Fosado, but Perel stopped a line drive from ten yards away. With 5:42 remaining, Watkins took a long counter pass, but Rachel Alverson raced her down and squared up. It led to a long shot by Cadence Brown that missed wide. Watkins fired a 21-yard heave in the waning minutes that led to Perel’s fourth save.

Watkins had the forest serious attempt in the second half when she took a long clearance pass following a Cedar Ridge free kick, but Alverson ran her down and conceded a corner. The subsequent cross was cleared by Nasseri.

Paulakonis was fouled just outside of the box with 29:45 remaining in regulation, but her shot from 19 yards skipped off the top of the crossbar, the Red Wolves ninth shot.

The Red Wolves earned its third goal with 19:34 remaining a throw-in by Finnegan. Paulakonis bounced the ball off her chest and it rebounded to Celine Galla, who shot off a bounce inside the box went off Kaetner’s hands, then the crossbar. On the rebound, Galla jumped and tapped the ball off her head into the net and was immediately mobbed after her first playoff goal.

Richlands earned a penalty kick after a foul on Cedar Ridge in the box. Facing off against Abigail Proffitt, Perel made a diving save to the left, leading to another celebration from her teammates. Immediately afterwards, Brown sent a corner kick that was headed in by Watkins for the only Wildcats goal.

Perel finished with nine saves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *