Polk soccer team trips defending state champs; Moves to round three of state playoff action

Published 4:00 pm Monday, May 18, 2015

Polk players celebrate their heroic 4-3 win over defending state 2A champion West Stokes at Columbus on Saturday. (Photo by Mark Schmerling)

Polk players celebrate their heroic 4-3 win over defending state 2A champion West Stokes at Columbus on Saturday. (Photo by Mark Schmerling)

Defending 2A state soccer champion West Stokes came to Columbus on Saturday, May 16, with a bit more at stake than Polk County’s excellent team, when the two met in the second round of the state playoffs.

The Wildcats executed well, with crisp ball handling, but the Wolverines gave no quarter, forcing two regular overtime periods, two sudden-death overtimes, and a penalty kick overtime. Polk emerged with a 4-3 win advancing to the third round, to be held tomorrow, May 20, against Forbush.

After Ashe County defeated Hendersonville, 3-2, and in turn, lost 2-1, to West Stokes in previous playoff action, “We really felt like we had a chance (against West Stokes),” said Polk head coach Lennox Charles.

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“We felt like we could hang in there. We knew they (West Stokes) would have more possessions.”

Those predictions came true. West Stokes had more possessions, but the Wolverines fought relentlessly, and hung with the Wildcats. For over 65 minutes of play Polk kept the Wildcats from scoring.

West Stokes did boot one in, with 14:45 remaining in the game. Not quite 10 minutes later, the Wolverines returned the favor, when, following a free kick, Ashley Love tied the score, on line assists by Rhian Alley and Caroline Lee. That score-tying boot seemed to further energize the Wolverines.

That’s how regulation ended. A 10-minute overtime period followed, as did another, with no scoring. Then followed two five-minute sudden death overtimes– with no scoring.

Next came the penalty kick period, a one-on-one high-voltage contest, where the teams alternated, sending, one at a time, five kickers to the penalty line with the other team’s goaltender the only other player counting.

When it was over, West Stokes had made two kicks and Polk’s goaltender Kara Overholt threw herself at the ball as though it would harm her teammates had it gotten by her. Overholt was one block more successful than her counterpart, and when the Wolverines’ Addie Lynch banged one in to put Polk ahead, 4-3, suddenly, the Wildcats’ season was over, and the Wolverines were going to round three.

Polk players though all-but-drained physically, leaped for joy and hugged each other, as fans streamed to the home bench to take part in that joy.

“Working hard has not been our issue,” Charles stated. No one could disagree. He said that his players had to focus, as they did.

Was there a strategy for penalty kicks?

“It’s so much of a mental thing,” Charles noted, adding that his team has practiced quite a bit.