SOCCER: Wolverines shut out Cavaliers to secure playoff berth

Published 12:31 pm Tuesday, October 24, 2023

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By Jed Blackwell


Polk County didn’t make the most of all of their chances against East Rutherford on Monday night.

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They finished enough, though, to take a big Senior Night victory, defeating the Cavaliers 3-0.

The win gives the Wolverines a 9-8-2 record heading into Wednesday’s regular-season finale against Brevard. That assures Polk of finishing with a .500 record or better, and per North Carolina High School Athletic Association rules, that should guarantee the Wolverines a playoff berth and seeding like a conference champion, meaning Polk should have at least one home playoff match.

Pairings for the state 1A playoffs will be announced Friday.

Cooper Meyer helped to dictate the pace of play Wednesday, leading to a number of good chances for the Wolverines.

“We refer to Cooper as an agent of chaos,” Polk County coach George Alley said with a grin. “He just gets in there and comes out with the ball, and we wanted him to finish one.”

He didn’t quite get one, but he spurred a number of opportunities for Polk County. There was a point-blank shot at the 15-minute mark that the East keeper turned away. A Polk shot hit the post at 14:05, inches from going in. There was a save at 11:15, and two more inside a minute at 10:30.

However, all of those would have only served to extend a lead that the Wolverines grabbed in the early going. With 26 minutes left in the first half, Owen Highsmith took possession and streaked down the home sideline, feeding a beautiful cross to Thomas Varnadore, who calmly banged it in for a 1-0 lead.

“I thought that was a sweet pass,” Alley said. “He didn’t overplay it. The ball was weighted perfectly. Thomas went right up and that’s huge. Getting that first goal always helps.”

Still, the missed chances had Alley worried.

“I had my concerns going into the second because they’re well-coached and we knew they were going to adjust,” he said. “The fact that we came out and got a couple more was huge, and we were able to get the seniors in and get them a lot of playing time.”

Alley’s concerns were eased with 32 minutes left, as Nate Martinez took a run on his own and launched a shot that found the back of the net to double the lead at 2-0. McClain Koistinen scored in the last 1:35 to provide the final margin.

“It was great to get a win on Senior Night,” Alley said. “Now we have our work cut out for us on Wednesday with Brevard, and then hopefully on to the playoffs.”