CARY — Some teams don’t like high expectations, preferring to go about their business quietly and away from the spotlight.
Panther Creek’s girls soccer team, which defeated visiting Green Hope 1-0 on Wednesday night, isn’t among them. Not only do the Catamounts like high expectations, they welcome them.
“We like to set big goals because we like having big expectations,” said senior striker Mazzy Sullivan, who scored the lone goal. “We’re trying to go all the way this year. We’re working well as a team, working well together. We’ve got the feeling this is our year.”
So far, she’s been right. The home win over one of the Catamounts’ top rivals kept them unbeaten as Panther Creek (10-0-1, 6-0-1) chases the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference title, as well as the state championship.
“It’s tough not to look down the road,” PC coach David Grant said. “It is. But if you’ve been around long enough with a conference like this, I don’t care if we’ve been undefeated (so far) We’ve still got to go play Holly Springs again, and going to Green Hope is not going to be any pushover. We’ve got Athens Drive on Monday night, which is the first step.”
Sullivan brushed aside any talk of an unbeaten season.
“We just take it a game at a time, a game at a time,” Sullivan said. “We try not to think too far ahead.”
Grant established higher goals in his first year as PC coach a season ago, and his team has matured from the 2012-13 season. Once loaded with sophomores, more experienced juniors dominate the roster.
“We’ve grown, not just physically, but mentally was well,” Grant said. “We were in a lot of big situations last year in some games, and we’ve got a more mature team this year. That’s what’s carried us through some of these tight games: ‘OK, we’ve been here before. What do we have to do?’”
There was plenty of pressure against Green Hope (5-5-2, 3-3-1). Sullivan scored in the 26th minute on a brilliant pass from Courtney Cash, and the Catamounts had to fight off a persistent Falcon attack the rest of the game.
“We’re working so well together,” Sullivan said. “Chemistry is on point this year. That’s what’s really pulling us through games, that and conditioning. We’re lasting all those 40 minutes, and we’ve had some good overtime games, too.”
Green Hope knows about high expectations. The Falcons won the state title a year ago after many figured they were, indeed, the best team in North Carolina. But after losing several talented players from that squad, Green Hope has struggled to get similar results.
“Unfortunately, the results aren’t going their way right now,” Falcons assistant coach Jordan Lewis said. “But if they keep playing like this the rest of the season, they will.”
Green Hope had several chances to score throughout the game, but PC goalkeeper Celeste Barnard helped keep the Falcons off the scoreboard. Midway through the second half, though, Kenley Sigmon fed an open Erin Coogan on the left wing, but Coogan’s shot sailed over the crossbar.
“When you have your chances, you’re going to have to finish them against a team like that,” Lewis said. “We weren’t able to tonight, but we’re really proud of their effort. It’s going to sting; all losses do, but we’re definitely proud of them.”