Polk soccers dream season falls one win short

Published 12:13 pm Wednesday, June 4, 2008

When the Polk County High womens soccer team looks back on their 2008 season, chances are theyll have lot of good memories. One day, the final game might even be one of them.
On a sunny Saturday afternoon in May, twenty-four fresh-faced PCHS girls found themselves warming up on North Carolina State Universitys soccer field, having advanced through four rounds of the state playoffs all the way to the 1-A championship match. Their opponent: the Dixon High Lady Bulldogs from the far eastern part of the state. In the stands was a large and vocal crowd that had made the trip from the two communities in order to cheer on their respective teams.

Two hours later, the memory had turned painful after a 1-0 loss.
Only two teams get here, Coach Lennox Rock Charles said about the title game afterwards. Only one team in the state can end their season completely happy.
Prior to the game, Charles scouting reports indicated that Dixon would be a very aggressive, physical team that maintained constant pressure and was dangerous on throw-ins and corner kicksin short, very similar in style to his own squad.
The game played out exactly as expected, with the two teams battling strength against strength the whole way. If anything, the Wolverines outplayed the Bulldogs overall, although each team took its turns at dominating the match.

As is so often the case in such matches, the difference came down to a bit of luck. Thirteen minutes into the first half, Dixon senior forward Chelsea DZurilla took a low shot from about 24 yards out. The shot appeared to be an easy save for standout junior goalkeeper Jazmine Bridgmeman, but it skipped off the turf a few yards in front of her and slipped through her hands for a goal.
That was such a freak thing, Polk principal Aaron Greene said afterwards. Were not used to playing on such a smooth field (the impeccably groomed N.C. State turf was cut very short). It didnt bounce like youd expect it to on our field.

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The goal was not a backbreaker at the time. After all, the Lady Wolverines had given up early goals only to come roaring back in several earlier contests, and they were clearly outplaying the Bulldogs at that point in this one.
But as the match unfolded, it became clear that Dixon was as tenacious on defense as their 15-2-2 record would indicate. They had won several close games to get to this point, and their defense bent but never broke.
Not that Polk didnt have chances. A few minutes after Dixons goal, senior Kerry Cunningham had an excellent breakaway shot that sailed just over the net. Three minutes after that, a Wolverine corner kick very nearly resulted in a goal. Another near miss off a corner kick came just a minute later, followed by a free kick that almost netted a goal.
In the second half, more opportunities came tantalizingly close. With under five minutes left to play, the Lady Wolverines staged a furious flurry of shots and corner kicks that energized Polk fans and set the Lady Bulldogs on their heels. But nothing went in, and the season ended in a painful loss.
I felt like we had the better of the play most of the game, Charles said afterwards. We had the most chances and the better chances. But thats the game of socceryouve got to have some luck on your side. You get opportunities, and you have to take advantage of them; we didnt.

After the gameafter receiving the state runner-up plaque and applauding politely as Dixon received the championship trophythe team retreated to a shady spot under the scoreboard to compose themselves. Twenty minutes later when they finally walked over to the stands to make their way to the team bus, they found the Polk County fans waiting, standing and applauding in support.
When they look back on this season years from now, that may be the sweetest memory of all.
NOTES: This was coach Charles third trip to the state title game (the first two were with the mens team). All three games were against the same opponent, Dixon.
Bridgemans play in goal was a major factor in reaching the final. She notched a 1.38 goals-against average with 11 shutouts and 230 saves.
The Lady Wolverines are losing seven seniors to graduation: Yvonne Ballard, Kerry Cunningham, Maggie Fitch, Jaylyn Kempton, Heather Morrow, Rachel Sain, and Jordan Stratford.