Panther Creek’s girls soccer team ended the year ranked No. 11 in the nation by StudentSports.com despite having just six seniors.
What the Catamounts didn’t have in experience, they made up for with resiliency.
Panther Creek had 15 shutouts in going 23-1-1. In those games where the team did allow a goal, it had an answer for all of them, except the final one as it came in the sudden death period in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A state championship – a 1-0 loss to Hough.
There was a 1-1 tie with Holly Springs, where Panther Creek scored with just 1:19 to play, and a 3-0 game where the Catamounts scored all three goals in overtime.
In the East final, Hoggard scored a back-breaking tying goal with 2:14 to play, but Panther Creek rebounded to win 2-1 in overtime.
There was a quiet confidence about Panther Creek’s girls soccer program all along. The Catamounts had a successful program – going to the playoffs in now seven straight seasons – but had not yet tipped the scales and entered statewide and national recognition.
That changed almost as soon as the season began with a 2-1 win against preseason favorite Millbrook and a 18-0 drubbing of Rolesville – all 18 goals in the first half.
Coach David Grant’s team had talent. Juniors Celeste Barnard, Rachael Everhart and Courtney Cash were named to The News & Observer’s All-Metro team, but there were many more who could have been named.
Panther Creek broke the mold when it comes to undefeated champions of the 4A East. Unlike previous teams from Green Hope and Leesville Road, there was no one star player scoring all the goals or earning state player of the year honors. No Catamount had more than 15 goals, and only two had more than eight.