Inclement weather across the Triangle area has helped save the best for last when it comes to Women’s Soccer in the Cap-8. Claire Griffiths scored two goals in the final twenty five minutes of regulation on Wednesday night, to help Millbrook beat Sanderson 2-1 at the Wildcat Stadium. The win, combined with a Leesville loss to Wakefield earlier in the day sets up a Cap-8 Conference Championship Game on Friday afternoon at Leesville.
“Tonight was huge” said Griffiths who couldn’t help but think back to a last second goal that Millbrook allowed to Sanderson two years back on Senior Night in the final seconds of regulation. That night in 2014 has helped mold the Wildcats into the conference championship contenders that they are. This “Senior Night” victory seems even sweeter for Griffiths, Coach Matt Edwards, and the rest of the team given the fact that there is no senior to be found on the roster this season. “I’ve learned so much from this group, and their chemistry has been like no other” notes Edwards. Griffiths adds that this team has been doubted all season and it has fueled this terrific run, “We’ve heard everything that people have said that we can’t do. We don’t have seniors, we don’t have an experienced goalie, etc.. But none of that has stopped us” .
To walk away with the 2-1 victory on Wednesday night, the Wildcats had to battle back and weather many storms from Sanderson who just like the last time they played Millbrook took a 1-0 lead into halftime. Edwards felt like his girls took full control of the game after allowing the 22nd minute score. Both Jensen Emerline, and Haley Flowers had chances before the first half clock expired. Megan Proudfoot had two of her own to start the new period, and her play sparked the Wildcat comeback.
Sanderson appeared to take a 2-0 advantage in the 46th minute but a Spartan was ruled offsides to call off the goal. Moments later, Gabby Sturla tried to play a ball back in the midfield but she tripped up a Sanderson player in the process to receive a yellow card. The chippy play continued as the Spartans failed to net the ensuing free kick which led to a chance on the other end for Claire Griffiths who was tripped up to earn a free kick of her own.
With the ball sitting in front of one of the Cap-8’s most powerful legs, Griffiths misfired and the ball fell short of the goal. Millbrook got the ball back on the rebound, and Proudfoot earned a penalty kick. Coach Edwards tasked Griffiths with taking the PK, and redemption was all too sweet for the Florida State commit who sent a rocket lower right for the equalizer. “There was so much emotion behind that kick” said Griffiths who gave a long look at the Sanderson keeper after her score.
She would be rewarded even more less than twenty minutes later when Proudfoot found her again in the midfield for a scoring chance. The way that chance developed was a risk in itself as Griffiths was told to just “go for it” in the midfield after playing outside back all night long. A seam in the Spartan defense opened, and from fifteen yards out, Claire Griffiths sent a laser to the top left corner of the goal to give Millbrook a 2-1 lead with 5:12 left in regulation. “She’s the only one on this team who has that type of ice in her veins” says Edwards.
In order for that score to be the game winner, Millbrook had to play some strong defense. The leader of that defensive group all season long has been Hayleigh Pack who stopped seven of the eight shots that came her way. After leaping and punching a kick over the crossbar in the 60th minute, she put her hands up and batted down two more late Sanderson kicks, then followed with a sprawling save in the final three minutes to preserve the victory.
Millbrook is 14-2-2 heading into their regular season finale at Leesville. At 10-1-2 in the Cap-8 Conference, the Wildcats and Pride are tied for the top spot in the league. The winner of Friday’s game at Leesville will be the outright conference champions. Friday’s game is at 4:30.