Outstanding defenses and near-misses by the handful carried Northwest Guilford and Ragsdale through 80 minutes of regulation, two tense overtimes and into a penalty-kick shootout in the first round of the Class 3-A state soccer playoffs Thursday night at Northwest.
Northwest won that final test of nerves and the game 2-1 when junior goalkeeper Robin Yaun stopped two of Ragsdale's first five penalty kicks.The celebration that followed was special. Northwest had won its first playoff game since it began fielding soccer teams in 1984.
``I think that was the big pressure,' Northwest coach Bob Yow said. ``They were having a hard time accepting the fact that they could win a playoff game.
``I think they feel like they got something off their back. They just said, 'We finally did it.' '
The Vikings (14-2) advance to the second round to face High Point Andrews (15-3) Tuesday night at Northwest.
Strong defense by Northwest's Rob Knowles, Robby McGee and Dale Yarboro and Ragsdale's Shawn Pollard, Scott Stewart and David Kirkman gave each team an equal share of momentum - and kept both of them from grasping control for very long.
That pattern held even after Northwest's Robby Eatman scored off Josh Bobko's header at 52:09. Just 10 minutes elapsed before Ragsdale's Chris Welch evened the score when he produced a goal out of a wild scramble in front of Northwest's goal that drew Yaun out and left the net open.
Welch would threaten to score several times from there, but a Viking always arrived in time to stop him. Teammate James Galardo joined in as Ragsdale pressured the goal throughout the first overtime, but Yaun stopped two shots, one by Galardo from five yards out, and the others sailed wide or high.
Northwest packed three close calls into the last seven minutes of the second overtime. McGee beat two defenders and got off a shot from the left side, 10 yards away, but Ragsdale goalkeeper Jamie Baynard easily stopped the slow roller.
Bobko and Ryan Apple managed shots off consecutive throw-ins near the Ragsdale goal, but both shots found a crowd of defenders. Eatman had the last and best opportunity on a breakaway that drew Baynard away from the goal with two minutes left, but his shot was high.
That left the penalty-kick shoot-out - and a cruel irony.
Welch had been far and away Ragsdale's top scoring threat and even joined the defensive effort late in the game, kicking away a potential goal after Baynard had been drawn out.
So advanced are Welch's skills that he was the first player Ragsdale coach Brian Braswell sent out as the penalty-kick shootout ensued. Welch drilled his shot low and to the left, and Yaun came up with the diving save that would ultimately make the difference.
``After the first one, I knew my guys had a foot,' Yaun said. ``I was just hoping they'd put it in and they did. It took the pressure off me.'
Of his team, Braswell said, ``I'll talk to them on the bus. You can't get down on them.
``These things happen. Keepers get psyched up against the best players. The keeper won the game for them.
``Things like this happen. It's what sports is all about.'