Late goal, late storm lift Polk County past North Buncombe

Malena Roman and Polk County's defense combined for their sixth shutout of the season in Thursday's win.

After a long week, perhaps Polk County’s girls soccer team deserved an early end to Thursday’s match with North Buncombe – though perhaps not the soaking that came with it.

The final 12 minutes featured Rhian Alley’s lightning-quick free kick, a heavy downpour and some nearby actual lightning, all of which led to a 1-0 non-conference victory for the Wolverines over the Black Hawks in a soggy G.M. Tennant Stadium.

Polk County also earned a 2-0 victory in junior varsity play.

After road trips this week to Owen and Mitchell, the Owen trip including two overtimes and a round of penalty kicks, the Wolverines (8-3) got a bit of a break as time wound down Thursday evening. Shortly after the gentle mist that fell throughout the game turned into pouring rain, Polk County officials came onto the field with just over seven minutes remaining, informing officials that a lightning strike had occurred within six miles of the stadium.

Players and those fans who had braved the elements were cleared from the stands. With another strike spotted shortly thereafter, officials decided to go ahead and end the game rather than continue to wait for the storm to pass, a delay that could have lasted as long as an hour.

Fortunately for Polk County, Alley’s free kick minutes earlier finally gave the Wolverines a lead in a match for which they largely dominiated play.

For a time, the game felt much like Polk County’s 2-1 loss to Landrum earlier this season, a match in which the Wolverines controlled play and had numerous scoring opportunities throughout the first half, but failed to convert and eventually paid the price for it. Polk County spent much of the first half of Thursday’s match in North Buncombe’s end of the field, but were just wide on several scoring chances.

That changed, finally, with 18:27 remaining in regulation. Chasing a long pass toward the penalty area, Addie Lynch’s path to the ball was obstructed by a North Buncombe defender who stepped in front of her as she neared the top of the penalty box. Officials ruled it a foul, giving Polk a free kick on the right wing just outside the top of the 18-yard box.

Alley shaped the kick into the left corner of the net. The heavy rain arrived six minutes later, the lightning five minutes after that, the end of the night shortly thereafter.

“In the second half, we seemed to be second to the ball a lot, except for our defenders,” said Polk County head coach Lennox Charles. “This week probably had a lot to do with that.

“We weren’t real efficient in finishing in the first half. If Cameron’s (Capozzi) header goes in or Ava’s (Marino) header goes in, then we’re coming off two up or even one-nil at the half, and then we get the second one and it’s basically over. We definitely dominated the first half.”

Polk County hits the road again on Monday, trekking to Marshall for a Western Highlands Conference battle with Madison.

A soaked Polk County junior varsity squad celebrates their 2-0 win Thursday over North Buncombe (photo courtesy Julie Wilson).