LUMBERTON — When the final buzzer sounded on Friday at the Lumberton High School soccer field, there was a release of emotion.
After 80 grueling minutes, the girls sitting on Lumberton’s bench stormed the field, meeting the starters in a jumping huddle on the side, screaming at the top of their lungs, followed by hugs from family and friends.
For the first time in history, the Pirates beat Pinecrest.
“It’s nothing we’ve ever done before,” said senior captain Madi Britt. “As long as Kenny (Simmons) has been here as a coach with the LHS soccer program, we’ve never beat Pinecrest, so it means a lot to us.”
After several close calls in recent years, the Pirates (4-1, 1-0) beat the the perennial Southeastern Conference champion 1-0, getting their lone goal midway through the second half.
“In the 20 year history of the girls program, we’ve never beat Pinecrest,” Simmons said. “That’s why you saw the celebration tonight.”
The latest close game between the teams played out in a dramatic fashion. Shots on goal were rare and goalies were relied on for key stops.
The only goal of the game came on a corner kick by freshman Madison Sirmans with 23:47 left in the second half. Sirmans put up a bending cross that avoided any contact from players near the net and sailed into the far end of the goal.
“I wouldn’t say she was intentionally trying to put the ball in the net, she was just trying to serve the ball in the middle, but for us it went in and that was the difference in the game,” Simmons said.
The teams played physically throughout the game, which came to a head three minutes after Sirman’s goal. As the teams battled for a through ball near midfield, a fight broke out between opposing players. As the initial incident started to clear up, a second Lumberton player joined the fray and started throwing punches.
Lumberton’s Peyton Singleton and Jordan Singleton were given red cards and ejected, as was Pinecrest’s Grace Anne Longfellow.
Pinecrest coach Ray Blatz was also issued a yellow card as referees sorted out the incident. Simmons received a yellow of his own in the game’s closing minutes.
Simmons expects that the Singletons will receive four-game suspensions from NCHSAA, though the team is still playoff eligible. Per NCHSAA policy, if another Lumberton player is ejected for fighting at any point this season, the Pirates will be disqualified from the playoffs.
The ejections left Lumberton playing with nine players and Pinecrest with 10 for the final 20 minutes.
The Patriots used the numbers advantage to mount an offensive attack and put five more shots on goal before time expired. Micayla Kitchen had several open looks including a free kick near the corner of the box that pinged off the crossbar.
Lumberton goalie Alexis Andrews, who came in early in the half after starting Brittany Bolin hit her head on the ground making a save, stopped the attack.
“After the fight we had to play down a player and we had to change up some positions, but everyone kept their head in the game,” Britt said. “We weren’t going to lose, we weren’t going to accept it.”
Blatz was pleased with how his team played.
“We more than dominated possession of the ball, we more than dominated good opportunities on the ball, but you can’t win a game if you don’t score,” he said. “Unfortunately we didn’t finish them up in front of the net tonight and let a lot of opportunities slide.