Orange Women’s Soccer

Orange soccer’s Elliana Sullivan Gaddy, Makayla Davis & Kaylen Crayton discuss win over Cedar Ridge

It wasn’t just another edition of the Hillsborough Derby between the Orange and Cedar Ridge women’s soccer teams at Red Wolves Stadium. It was possibly the highest scoring game ever between the two teams. Orange scored three goals in the opening six minutes, then got the Elliana Sullivan Gaddy scored the game-winning goal for the Lady Panthers with 38:54 remaining in regulation as Orange won 7-5 over the Red Wolves. Sullivan Gaddy finished with four goals, bringing her total to nine on the season. Senior Ella Wimsatt finished with two goals and two assists. Cedar Ridge junior Fleury Nicholson finished with four goals, including a penalty kick in the second half that brought the Red Wolves within one goal. Wimsatt cashed in the final goal for Orange with 46 seconds remaining on a goal from Cora Bailey. Senior Makayla Davis earned the win as the goalkeeper for Orange. There was solid defensive play by freshman Kaylen Crayton, who plays on the backline with her sister, senior Lily Crayton. Orange’s Caroline Cathey scored a goal to put the Lady Panthers ahead 2-1 early. Orange is now 4-2, 2-1 in the Central Conference. They will face Southern Alamance in Graham next Monday. Cedar Ridge will host Northern Durham on Wednesday night at Red Wolves Stadium. 

The last splash; Sikes named Most Outstanding Swimmer as Orange women’s swimming wins Central Conference title; Stinnett, McCrimmon win gold for Cedar Ridge

After someone stays at one place long enough, it becomes a part of them.

That’s why Katie Belle Sikes was emotional on Wednesday night. Though she dipped into the ocean on family vacations as an adolescent, the 25-yard pool at the Orange County SportsPlex was where she went from just playing in the water to becoming a swimmer.

It all started in 2014. Through her voracious work ethic, Sikes made the SportsPlex the location of her daily routine. For the past decade, she became just as much a part of the SportsPlex as the pool itself. It led to her becoming the most decorated swimmer in Orange High history.

Her final meet at the SportsPlex came during the Central Conference Championships on Wednesday night. She went out as only she can, being named the Conference Swimmer of the Year for the second time.

Sikes led Orange to its second consecutive team championship. The Lady Panthers came away with 417 points. Cedar Ridge, keyed by strong finishes from juniors Sophia Stinnett and Quinn McCrimmon, finished second at 371 points.

“I was super emotional,” Sikes said. “It’s the last time I was going to swim here after so long. It’s really bittersweet. I’m so happy I got to swim here for so long, but the fact that it’s coming to a close is really, really sad.”

Orange had first-place finishes in seven of the 12 events to earn the team title. Sikes broke her own school record in the 200 yard freestyle by five seconds. She touched the wall at 1:53.92. Stinnett finished second at 2:06.14.

Sikes also claimed gold in the 100 yard freestyle, where she is the defending 3A State Champion. She finished at 50.81 seconds. Abigale Robinson of Walter Willams finished runner-up at 1:01.81. Ainsley Rasinske of Orange came in third at 1:03.06.

Sikes ends her career with six individual conference championships. There weren’t any Big 8 Conference Swimming Championships (where Orange competed in 2021) during Sikes’ freshman year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was also the final meet at the SportsPlex for Orange senior Riley White, who encouraged Sikes to try swimming when she was still in elementary school.

Riley won two individual gold medals. She claimed the 200 yard individual medley at 2:19.17. McCrimmon earned the silver at 2:31.51, while Rasinske took the bronze (2:37.23). In the 100 yard breaststroke, Riley finished first at 1:13.28. Alejandra Gonzalez, a freshman at Walter Williams, was second while Cedar Ridge sophomore Hala Zafar came in third.

For the second year in a row, Orange’s Piper White won the 50 yard freestyle. This year, White won the sprint at 26:54 seconds. White also won the title as a freshman last year.

For the third time in her career, Stinnett claimed a conference championship. This time, Stinnett won the 500 yard freestyle with a time of 5:31.96. It was Stinnett’s first conference crown in the 500. In 2022 and 2023, she captured the 200 yard freestyle.

Orange junior Zoe Jones earned silver in the 500 at 6:12.50.

McCrimmon won her second individual championship in the 100 yard butterfly. In a tight race, McCrimmon won at 1:04.66, beating Piper White to the wall. White finished at 1:06.80. Jones came in third at 1:08.02.

Last year, McCrimmon took the conference title in the 200 yard individual medley.

Cedar Ridge’s team of McCrimmon, Stinnett, Zafar and Sierra Godfrey won the 400 yard freestyle relay at 4:19.23. Last year, McCrimmon, Stinnett, Zafar and Abbygale Pearce finished runner-up behind a quartet from Northwood.

Orange, the defending 3A State Champions in the 200 yard freestyle relay, won another conference championship. Sikes, White, Rasinske and White took the title at 1:47. 82. Southern Alamance’s Annabelle Hazelwood, Sophia Eusantos, Autumn Barber and Sydney Williams finished second.

F0r the first time in recent history, Orange had a female diver participate in the conference championships. Junior Lily Howard, who had been a swimmer in her first two years at Orange, finished third at 219.75. Western Alamance’s Michaela Bentley won the conference championship with a score of 357.00.

 

Orange Panther of the Week: Abby Monteith, and an interview with the Orange women’s soccer seniors

The Orange women’s soccer team celebrated its Senior Night with a victory over crosstown rival Cedar Ridge on Monday night. It was a night to honor a group that accomplished what no other women’s soccer team in school history had done: reach the third round of the state playoffs. Abby Monteith, Isabel Jones, Sydney Rogers, Katelyn Van Mater, Madison Orange, Teresa Rodriguez and Hannah Hummel were all part of playoff victories over Harnett Central and Cape Fear last season. Monteith, who is this week’s Orange Panther of the Week, had to battle back to play this season. Last May in a third-round state playoff game against Walter Williams, Monteith suffered a torn ACL sprinting for a loose ball. It took months of rehabilitation and mental strength to get back to the pitch this year. On Wednesday night, Monteith earned the win in net as Orange defeated Person 10-1. Madison Orange scored a goal against the Rockets. Rogers suffered an injury during training last fall, but had a senior night of her own last fall. Along with Katelyn Van Mater and Isabel Jones, Rogers was a prominent member of the Orange women’s tennis team that won it’s first conference championship in school history last October. Van Mater has also been a forward for the Orange women’s basketball team the past three seasons. Jones scored five goals this season and has been a member of the varsity for four years. Together, many of these players were together as eight graders when the Orange Chargers won their first Orange Person Athletic Conference championship in school history in 2018. After its win over Person, Orange is 8-6-2 and will travel to Northwood on Monday night for the final week of the regular season.

Sullivan-Gaddy’s hat trick lifts Orange women’s soccer past Cedar Ridge 5-1 on Senior Night

Senior goalkeeper Abby Monteith vowed she wouldn’t cry on Orange’s Senior Night, though no one would have blamed her if she did.

She had earned it through the joy of being a vital part of the greatest postseason run in Orange women’s soccer history last year–and the agony of everything she endured just to return to the pitch this year.

Orange’s Senior Night included the obligatory banners honoring each of the seniors hanging along the grandstands, an array of orange and white balloons greeting spectators as they entered Orange Soccer Stadium and plenty of emotion among players, parents and fans. After Orange defeated crosstown rival Cedar Ridge 5-1, the Truck Bed Rowdies, a group of fans who watch every home game from the north end zone sitting on the tailgates of their trucks, stormed the pitch like Wrexham had just earned promotion to England’s Football League.

Orange sophomore Elliana Sullivan-Gaddy scored her first hat trick of the season as the Lady Panthers improved to 7-6-2, 5-4 in the Central Carolina Conference.

Sullivan-Gaddy factored in on all five goals for Orange. She assisted on the game-winner by another sophomore, Caroline Cathey, in the second minute, which was wildly ironic. In the opening game between the two teams at Red Wolves Stadium on March 22, they played to a scoreless tie in regulation. The Lady Panthers notched the only tally on an own goal in the second overtime to win 1-0.

In the 15th minute, junior Ella Wimsatt scored on another assist by Sullivan-Gaddy.

Monteith earned the win in net for Orange. Last spring, Monteith was in net when the Lady Panthers advanced to the third round of the 3A State Playoffs for the first time in the 34-year history of the program. In the second half against Walter Williams in Burlington, Monteith suffered a torn ACL sprinting after a loose ball with 32:03 remaining in a 1-1 game. She left the game and faced a long summer to get healthy again.

Undergoing physical therapy at UNC, there were just as many mental tests and physical ones.

“It was a lot of sitting around,” Monteith said. “I think if there’s one thing that I want to voice for all athletes going through injury, it’s the mental health aspect. It’s a lot of sitting and watching. That’s the hardest part. My physical therapist was phenomenal. It’s really hard to get through it, on your own especially. So having people around you and a good support system is just all you can ask for.”

Last Wednesday, Monteith made seven saves as Orange defeated Walter Williams 2-1 to complete a regular season sweep of the Bulldogs.

While Monteith returned to action, another prominent member of the senior class had her 0wn ACL issues. Midfielder Sydney Rogers, a dominant playmaker, was injured while training last October. It would cost her her senior season.

Well, almost all of it.

For her Senior Night, Rogers participated in the opening kickoff agains the Red Wolves. She took the first pass, relayed it out of play and left the game.

Rogers will go on to play in college, like her older sister Jordan, who played at William Peace in Raleigh. While she’s been relegated to the sidelines this year, she’s found ways to keep herself busy.

“It’s been really sad because I don’t get to play,” Rogers, who became the first female in history to score a point for the Orange football team last year. “But it’s fun getting to see the other side of the field. I always will want to be involved in soccer and I think it’s fun that I’ll still get to be involved in high school where I get to have a joy for it. And get to see other people’s joy for it.”

Last season, Rogers scored seven goals and dished out three assists. None of the goals was more precious than the game-winner at Northwood, where she scored in the final minute. Rogers was so elated, she, well, threw up after celebrating, portions of the output landed precariously close to her classmate Madison Orange.

“That was an interesting memory,” Orange laughs. “I’ll never forget that night. That will always be in the back of my brain.”

Madison Orange has spent three seasons on varsity and scored six goals in her career.

Senior Katelyn Van Mater assisted on Sullivan-Gaddy’s second goal in the 52nd minute. Van Mater is no stranger to Senior Nights. Being a three-sport athlete, she’s already had two of them this year.

Along with fellow senior soccer player Isabel Jones, Van Mater was a regular player for the Orange women’s tennis team, which won the first conference tennis championship in school history last fall. Last winter, she was a forward for the women’s basketball squad that reached the state playoffs for the second straight year.

“This means a lot,” Van Mater said about earning the win on Senior Night. “It’s good to earn strong since this was the last senior night.”

Jones, who is second on the team with five goals, has spent four years on the varsity level. Last year, she scored five. Two of them came in playoff wins over Harnett Central and Cape Fear.

“Most of us have played together since out freshman year,” Jones said. “We’re all best friends. It’s sad. We’re all going to different colleges and that’s super emotional. But I’m glad we pulled out the game and it’s a really great win.”

Teresa Rodriguez, a defender who suffered a right foot injury at midseason, was another player who was lost before the season ended.

“It hurts a lot that I won’t get to play for the rest of this season,” Rodriguez said. “But it’s meant a lot for me to grow and be around my friends. To be around my family. Soccer is a big part of me. I hope to play professionally. I also think not going to be able to play without my friends in the future will be tough since we grew up playing together.”

Many of the Orange senior class were members of the 2018 squad at Orange Middle School (then called Stanford Middle School) that won the Orange Person Athletic Conference championship, the first Chargers team to ever won a conference title in women’s soccer.

“It’s like part of a family,” said Hannah Hummel, another senior. “Playing with people that are your friends that would want to spend time with. It’s special.”

Orange’s Abby Monteith and Caroline Cathey discuss overtime win over Cedar Ridge

A long battle for the Orange women’s soccer team against crosstown rival Cedar Ridge ended with a goal in the second overtime for the Lady Panthers. Caroline Cathey fired a shot inside the six-yard box that went off a player’s leg and into the net in the 94th minute for the game’s only goal as Orange defeated the Red Wolves 1-0. Cedar Ridge goalkeeper Addie Reid turned back shot after shot against the Lady Panthers and nearly earned the draw for the Red Wolves. At the opposite goal, Orange senior Abby Monteith earned her fourth clean sheets of the season. It’s been a gratifying week for Monteith. On Monday night, Orange returned to the Burlington for the first time since the 2022 3A State Playoffs last May. Orange defeated Williams 3-2. Last May in the state playoffs against Williams, Monteith suffered a torn ACL in the second half. Since then, Monteith went through a grueling period of rehabilitation to get back in game shape for her senior year. Last year, the Orange women’s soccer team became the first team in school history to reach the third round of the 3A State Playoffs. Orange will play at Durham School of the Arts tonight in its final game before spring break.

Orange women’s soccer continue playoff run tonight at Williams

The Orange women’s soccer team is the lowest-remaining seed remaining in the state playoffs.

That’s not just in the 3A State Tournament. That goes for all four classifications sanctioned by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (actually, Orange is a #23 seed. So is Cardinal Gibbons, who will face Middle Creek in the 4A State Tournament tonight in Cary).

Tonight, Orange will attempt to reach the state quarterfinals when they face Walter Williams in Burlington. Kickoff is at 7PM.

The Lady Panthers’ run to the third round of the state playoffs may be a surprise to some outside observers. For many of the players, however, it continues a wave of confidence that started after a double-overtime loss to eventual Central Carolina Conference champion Eastern Alamance on April 12 in Hillsborough. Since then, the Lady Panthers have gone 6-2.

For a select few players, they knew something special could eventually happen for Orange women’s soccer way back in 2018.

Madison Orange, Syndey Rogers, Allison Torkewitz and Lauren Garcia were among the players who were members of Orange Middle School’s (then called Stanford Middle School) 2018 Orange Person Athletic Conference Championship team. It is still the only team in the history of Orange/Stanford Middle School to win an OPAC Championship in women’s soccer.

In 2018, the Chargers defeated longtime power Phillips 2-1 in the championship game, avenging its only loss in the regular season. Orange Middle finished 7-1 that year. It was the only time in school history where the Chargers defeated all four of its OPAC rivals in the Southern Division (Phillips, Culbreth, McDougle and Smith) in a single season.

It was a milestone for Orange Middle School soccer. Now, some of those players have led Orange High to another milestone–the best postseason run in the 34-year history of women’s soccer at Orange.

Preparing how to train some of those players is something Lady Panthers head coach Jacki Mignosa was mulling back when Garcia was still in eighth grade, while Orange, Torkewitz and Rogers were in the seventh.

“When I had this group come up, it was ‘Let’s get them trained,'” Mignosa said. “Let’s get them working together, playing together constantly. Then, by the time they’re juniors and seniors, then this is where we are. And it worked.”

There have been notable additions along the way. Senior Bella Brown arrived in 2020 from Burlington Christian Academy . Brown scored a hat trick in Wednesday’s 5-2 win over Cape Fear in Fayetteville, ending the night with a stunning goal from 20 yards that sailed across the 18-year-box into the left corner of the night. It was her ninth goal of the season.

Freshman Elliana Sullivan Gaddy, who leads the team with 12 goals, went to Central Park Middle School in Durham. She plays with the Mebane Youth Soccer Academy as her travel team.

“This is the best soccer I’ve ever played in my life,” Sullivan Gaddy said the day after she scored two goals in a 5-3 win over Harnett Central. “It’s the most welcoming community that I’ve had. Eastern Alamance was the toughest team we’ve had to play. It has been a pretty tough conference.”

Orange was supposed to face Williams on Monday night, but it was postponed after severe storms tore through the Triad, which is appropriate. The Orange-Williams regular season series was as unpredictable as a North Carolina spring.

On April 14, Williams rolled past Orange 2-0 in Hillsborough. The following week, Orange traveled to Burlington and pounded the Bulldogs 5-0. It was Williams’ most lopsided loss of the season. Lady Panthers goalkeeper Abby Monteith notched the clean sheet.

Whatever happens tonight, this group of Lady Panthers will walk off the pitch knowing they’ve done something that no over Orange team before them ever did. The deepest playoff run in school history.

“I think it’s going to be a tough game,” Mignosa said “I really do. We split with them this season. So it’s going to be another battle. But as I told my team, I believe in them. And they just have to believe that they can do it.”

Orange Panther of the Week: Elliana Sullivan Gaddy

This week’s Orange Panther of the Week is freshman soccer striker Elliana Sullivan Gaddy. Last week, the Orange soccer team won two state playoff games for the first time in the 34-year history of the team. On Monday night, Orange stunned Harnett Central 5-3 in Angier. Sullivan Gaddy scored two goals and assisted on another goal. On Wednesday night, Orange defeated Cape Fear 5-2 in Fayetteville to reach the round of 16 in the state playoffs for the first time ever. Sullivan Gaddy scored the game-winning goal in the second half when she broke up a pass back to Cape Fear’s goalkeeper and tucked the ball away into an empty net. It was Orange’s seventh road win. Sullivan Gaddy is the leading scorer for Orange with 12 goals and 28 points. On April 25, Sullivan Gaddy scored a goal and two assists in Orange’s 5-0 win at Walter Williams in Burlington. She had a four-game goal scoring streak starting against Williams. It continued against Cedar Ridge on April 27. During that span, Orange won four consecutive games. Sullivan Gaddy, Bella Brown and Isabel Jones have added up to a strong forward combination for Orange, which has propelled them to the strongest postseason run in team history. The Lady Panthers will journey to Burlington tonight to face Walter Williams in the 3rd round of the 3A State Playoffs. 

No Fear–Brown’s hat trick leads Orange women’s soccer past Cape Fear 5-2, into 3rd round of state playoffs for 1st time

FAYETTEVILLE–91 degrees at kickoff in 45% humidity playing 102 miles from Hillsborough against a team that finished undefeated in its conference.

None of those obstacles were big enough to stop the Orange women’s soccer team from making history.

Senior Bella Brown notched her fifth career hat trick, her first this season, to propel the Lady Panthers (11-7-1) past Cape Fear 5-2 at Colt Stadium on Thursday night in the 2nd round of the 3A State Playoffs. Freshman Elliana Sullivan Gaddy notched the game-wining goal with 27:29 remaining. Sullivan Gaddy, who scored two goals in Orange’s win at Harnett Central on Tuesday night, now leads the Lady Panthers with 13 goals this season.

Cape Fear (15-4-2), who finished undefeated in winning the United Eight Conference championship, got both goals from sophomore Jayda Angel. She ends the season with 32 goals.

It’s the first time in the 34-year history of the program that Orange reached the 3rd round of the state playoffs. On Tuesday, the Lady Panthers defeated Harnett Central 5-3 for its second postseason victory in team history. The other was in double overtime against Southern Lee in 2016.

“It’s really a tribute to their hard work,” said Orange coach Jacki Mignosa. “I’m just kind of there to guide them, but they put in that time, they put in that effort. I’m glad they’re reaping the benefits.”

While Sullivan Gaddy got the game-winner, Brown injected Orange with a huge boost of adrenaline on a muggy night in the final minute of the first half. Junior midfielder Sydney Rogers sent an entry pass from 35 yards away. Cape Fear goalkeeper Meridith Wenthur struck the ball at the edge of the six-yard box. The ball popped off Wenthur’s hands, then bounced off the leg of Isabel Jones and off the chest of Brown, where it rolled into the right corner of the net with only 13 seconds remaining.

The equalizing goal provided Orange with momentum that they would not lose again.

Cape Fear had the first scoring opportunity in the second half when senior forward Brooke Dawkins dribbled up the right sideline. Dawkins fed a cross to Angel, whose attempt was blocked by Rogers. Throughout the second half, the Colts’ repeatedly tried to attack Orange’s sophomore left back Lily Crayton, who shut down every threat Cape Fear offered as Orange started controlling possession.

“When Lily gets on like that, there’s no stopping her,” Mignosa said. “She’s gets in that mindset and keeps steeping and going. She’s only a sophomore.”

Orange earned three corner kicks in the opening ten minutes of the second half. With 31:10 remaining in the second half, Brown sent a high line drive off the crossbar from 18 yard away. After Orange centerback Channing Mahaney cleared an entry pass, Crayton forced a turnover that led to a shot by Rogers that was saved by Wenthur.

As wingback Christina Paz sent a back pass to Wenthur, Sullivan Gaddy stuck her leg out, which doesn’t work about 95% of the time. This was an exception.

Sullivan Gaddy made just enough contact at the edge of the box to force a turnover. Sullivan Gaddy beat Wenthur to the ball and tucked it into the right corner of an empty net to put Orange ahead 3-2.

Cape Fear nearly earned a penalty kick on the subsequent possession. Angel sprinted towards the middle of the field, where Crayton rubbed her off the ball and fell to the turf. The Cape Fear fans screamed for a handball, but the official shook his head “no” as Crayton successfully cleared it down the field.

With 24:27 remaining, Ella Wimsatt fired a long shot that Wenthur blocked with both hands. The rebounds spilled out to the right flank, where Brown fed Jones on a gorgeous cross. Jones chipped it over the goal line from eight yards away into the right corner of the net for Orange’s first insurance goal.

Brown, who transferred from Burlington Christian Academy in 2020, ended the scoring with possibly the goal of the season for the Lady Panthers. After Crayton picked off a cross, Jones played it to Sullivan Gaddy. Brown got a slither of daylight from 22 yards away and fired a gorgeous ball that sailed into the left corner past a flailing Wenthur to send the Orange bench into hysteria.

“She’s had a lot of really pretty goals,” Mignosa said. “But that was beautiful.”

Brown now has 24 career goals.

As has happened time and time again across women’s sports in the Central Carolina Conference, Orange will face a conference rival in the third round of the state playoffs. On Monday night, the Lady Panthers will travel to Burlington to face Walter Williams. On Thursday night, the Bulldogs upset second-seeded Union Pines 2-1.

Orange and Williams had a bizarre season series where the Bulldogs dominated Orange 2-0 in Hillsborough on April 14. Just eleven days later, Orange traveled to Burlington and handled the Bulldogs 5-0.

That win started a four-game winning streak for Orange that propelled them into the sate playoffs. Now, this Orange team has gone where no other Lady Panther squad before them ever has: the Sweet 16 of the 3A State Playoffs.

“I’m so proud of them,” Mignosa said. “It’s amazing and it’s really just an honor to watch them and to just have time with them and be a part of their lives right now. This team works so hard. I lot of times, I feel like they get overlooked. So I’m so happy that they gets this time in the spotlight. They deserve it.”

Orange’s Crayton, Sullivan Gaddy, Monteith, Brown & Jones talk playoff win at Cape Fear

After 34 years of fielding teams, Orange women’s soccer is in the 3rd round of the state playoffs for the first time. On a hot, humid night in Fayetteville, senior Bella Brown scored a hat trick, while freshman Elliana Sullivan Gaddy notched the game-winning goal with 27:29 remaining as orange defeated Cape Fear 5-2. Isabel Jones added another goal for the Lady Panthers, who claimed its third-ever win in the state playoffs. With the game tied 2-2 at halftime, the Colts had a strong opportunity to score early. But Lily Crayton, playing left back for Orange, stopped a shot by Jada Angel. Midway through the second half, Orange’s Ella Wimsatt set a hard shot from 30 yards, which was thrust away by Colts goalkeeper Meridith Wenthur. Brown gained the rebound and sent a cross to Jones, who knocked it into the left corner of the net to put Orange ahead 4-2 with 24;27 remaining. After two trips to the Sandhills this week, Orange won’t have to travel far for the third round of the State Playoffs. Orange, the #23 seed, will travel to Burlington to face Walter Williams on Monday night. The Bulldogs upset #2 seed Union Pines on Thursday. Orange and Williams split the season series this year. Orange won 5-0 at Williams on April 25. 

Sullivan Gaddy’s two goals leads Orange women’s soccer past Harnett Central 5-3 in state playoffs; face Cape Fear tonight

The Orange women’s soccer team had waited six years since its last win in the state playoffs. What was another 45 minutes?

Despite a severe weather threat forecast on Monday, the Lady Panthers had still driven to Angier to face Harnett Central in the opening round of the 3A State Playoffs. It was the first time Orange had been in the postseason since 2017.

Orange was a hungry, confident team and they played like it. Freshman Elliana Sullivan Gaddy notched two goals in the opening half. Senior Bella Brown, who was the Lady Panthers’ leading scorer in 2021, added another. Sophomore Ella Wimsatt and junior Isabel Jones also tallied goals to put Orange ahead 5-2 when action stopped because of a lighting.

So Orange coach Jake Mignosa, assistant Will Stinnett and the players killed time the best way they knew how. An eclectic playlist full of music to sing and dance to.

There was lots of Taylor Swift, which sophomore Kassi Scarntino labeled “her 2000s songs.” Also Hannah Montana, Willie Nelson, even a Nirvana tune that most of the players liked, though they couldn’t quite remember the title (probably “Smells Like Teen Spirit because, well, that’s what it usually is when its Nirvana). Just enough songs to pass the time until the delay ended, complete the game and head back to Hillsborough to arrive at a decent hour ad get enough rest in time for school the next day.

Except there was another weather delay that followed shortly after play resumed. This second hold-up kept the players on the pitch until the final whistle sounded at 10 PM. Mind you, the day started on Monday morning with a standard day of classes, followed by the team boarding a bus for Angier for a 100-minute road trip. By the time the bus pulled back to the soccer parking lot adjacent to Orange’s tennis courts, a wilted but victorious group of players staggered off the bus at 11:30 PM.

“It was just mentally exhausting waiting through those delays,” Mignosa said after practice on Wednesday. “Keeping their spirits up, keeping their bodies loose, it was hard. There was some music, but I didn’t want them to think we were done playing. Because we weren’t.”

Orange came away with a 5-3 victory over the Trojans, the program’s first win in the 3A State Playoffs since 2016. Though it took a long time, lengthy postseason victories tend to be common in Orange’s soccer heritage. The Lady Panthers’ last state playoff win was a 5-4 double overtime victory over Southern Lee in Sanford.

Orange, the #23 seed in the 3A East Region, travels to Fayetteville tonight to face Cape Fear. The Colts (15-3-2) finished undefeated in the United Eight Conference.

The variance of Orange’s season are emblematic of a young team that has only two seniors (Brown and Laura Garcia). Of its top three scorers, Sullivan Gaddy (eleven goals) and Caroline Cathey (17 points) are freshmen.

All of which has led to some unpredictable results this year. On April 14, Walter Williams shut out the Lady Panthers 2-0 in Hillsborough. Eleven days later, in Orange’s very next game, they traveled to Burlington and beat the same Williams team 5-0 behind goals from Sullivan Gaddy, Brown, Wimsatt, Jones and Cathey. Junior goalkeeper Abby Monteith earned the clean sheet.

Ironically, the game that delivered the biggest confidence boost for Orange was also its most heartbreaking loss. On April 12, Orange was one minute away from beating Eastern Alamance and tying for first place in the Central Carolina Conference. With roughly 45 seconds remaining, the Eagles scored the equalizing goal off a low corner kick to end regulation 2-2. In a wild overtime session, the Eagles scored twice and held off a furious, last-minute Panther charge to win 4-3. Eastern Alamance went on to win the CCC title with an 11-1 record.

It would have been easy for Orange to be demoralized. Instead, their confidence got a boost.

“I think it clicked in our brain that we could compete with anybody,” Mignosa said. “That confidence makes a big difference. I think it really helped them. We played an amazing game that didn’t go in our favor. But Coach Stinnett and I reiterated that we were proud of them and they were completely capable of playing the best of the best.”

After the Williams defeat in Hillsborough, Orange won four straight games to sew up a state playoff spot. That included three straight shutouts over Williams, Cedar Ridge and Person. Monteith, usually the goalkeeper, came away with two goals in the win over the Rockets.

In a 3-0 shutout of Cedar Ridge on April 27 at Orange Soccer Field, Monteith and Kate Barger combined to shut out the Red Wolves. Sullivan Gaddy, Cathey and Destiny Lily Crayton all scored goals, while Brown and Jones had assists.

If Orange has ever advanced to the third round of the state playoffs in women’s soccer, there aren’t any online records that show it. Which means the Lady Panthers will make a road trip to Fayetteville tonight (which severe weather in the forecast, naturally) with potential history on the line.

There are some good omens. Of the three teams from the Central Carolina Conference that reached the state playoffs, all of them won their opening round games in the 3A State Playoffs (Eastern Alamance romped past Fayetteville 71st, Williams defeated Dixon in Holly Ridge).

As the photo that accompanies this article indicates, the players seem to get a kick out of playing along each other. That bodes well for a team that is slated to have nearly everyone back next season, along with new arrivals from Orange Middle School that captured the Orange-Person Athletic Conference Northern Division Championship earlier this month.

“All the girls get along so well,” Mignosa said. “We’ve been blessed with their companionship and their camaraderie. Having Sully (Sullivan Gaddy) and Caroline Cathey come up as freshmen and start varsity games has been amazing. We know it’s going to improve for the future.”