Missed opportunities doom Polk in playoff loss to R-S Central

Polk County's Cameron Capozzi and Jessica Bentley turn aside an R-S Central scoring threat in the first half of Saturday's game.

RUTHERFORDTON – In so many ways, Saturday evening came down to missed opportunities for Polk County’s girls soccer team.

A chance to host a third-round playoff game slipped away in a flurry of missed scoring opportunities for the Wolverines, Polk County dropping a 2-0 decision to R-S Central in a 2A second-round match.

Thanks to Central Academy’s upset of No. 2 seed Newton-Conover, the winner of Saturday’s game was assured of hosting Central in the third round. That honor will now belong to the Hilltoppers, who improved to 15-4 with the win.

Polk, meanwhile, ended another good season at 15-5, but with thoughts of what might have been.

The Wolverines struggled in the first half to solve R-S Central’s defense and get shots on goal. But in the second half, especially the final 25 minutes, Polk aggressively pressed forward and had several chances to score.

One shot clanged off the crossbar. Several sailed just wide. R-S goalkeeper Kennedy Reed also ranged all over the penalty area to turn aside others.

Throw in Polk’s best scoring change, that coming in the first half when the Wolverines had a look at an open net and failed to convert, and it all left the Wolverines scoreless for only the third time this season.

“The game changed when we missed a wide-open goal and they scored right after that,” said Polk County head coach Lennox Charles. “That changed everything.”

Emily Wilson’s goal at the 14:19 mark of the first half, coming when she was able to get her foot between two Polk defenders and redirect a pass from her left to the right of Wolverine goalkeeper Malena Roman, gave the Hilltoppers the first tally of the game.

R-S then added a second goal 10 minutes into the second half when the Wolverines were whistled for a foul during a corner kick. Morgan Hill took the resulting penalty kick and just slipped it past a diving Roman, who played exceptionally well in goal, for a 2-0 lead.

“That was an unfortunate penalty kick,” Charles said. “(The defender) said she tripped and fell, and as she tried to catch herself she pushed the R-S player in the back.”

Polk looked to finally have a goal eight minutes later, but Caroline Lee was called offsides as she scored, bringing a strong, disagreeing reaction from the Polk bench and crowd. In the final 10 minutes, Lee and fellow senior Ashley Love each just missed on shots, Reed corralled a couple of others and the Hilltoppers were able to hold on.

“We hung in there and we gave ourselves a chance,” Charles said. “Today we just didn’t take advantage of the chances we had.”