Thursday's regular-season finale had the potential of being historic for West Iredell’s girls soccer team.
The key word there—unfortunately for them—being “had.”
The Warriors (14-4, 9-2) entered the week with a chance to win their final two games of the season and clinch a share of the Northwestern Foothills Conference championship with Fred T. Foard (16-2-1, 11-0).
Hibriten (10-6-1, 7-4) derailed the bid for the program’s first conference title on Tuesday night in Lenoir, beating the Warriors 2-1 in double-overtime and avenging a 2-0 loss March 29.
“We’ll need to respond,” West Iredell coach David Heintz said. “This was a tough loss. Some of our girls are upset with it. So we’ll need to respond because we need to get back into a mindset to compete, especially going into the (2A state) playoffs.”
Tuesday’s game was just the Warriors’ second in 13 days and first “meaningful one” in 15.
The spring break layover had an impact on both teams, though, Heintz said.
West Iredell led Hibriten 1-0 on Helen Summerell’s 37th goal of the season. The Panthers evened the game on a penalty kick Heintz questioned should have been rewarded.
Goalkeeper Angelina Hendricks preserved the tie and forced overtime when she denied a goal on a Hibriten breakaway inside the final minute.
“She made a really good one-on-one kick save,” Heintz said.
Throughout the course of the game West Iredell rang two shots off the crossbar, and Heintz felt officials missed a Hibriten foul in the box when Summerell possessed the ball.
It left the door open and the Panthers took advantage in the final minute of the first overtime, pocketing the game-winning goal on a counterattack.
“It was their senior night, and I thought they played with more sense of urgency than we did,” Heintz said.
The Warriors must put the disappointment of that outcome behind and quickly turn their attention to Thursday’s regular-season finale at home against NWFC champion Foard. Kickoff is 6 p.m.
The Tigers won the first meeting 2-0 in Newton thanks largely to a pair of rebound goals. Heintz believes it could have “easily” been a 3-3 game given missed scoring opportunities.
Regardless of Thursday's outcome, the conference standing will not change for either team. West Iredell will place second, matching its best conference finish from 2013, when the Warriors’ trailed only North Piedmont Conference unbeaten West Rowan.
“We want to make sure we don’t pick up injuries or have anything that negatively affects us next week in the playoffs,” Heintz said. “That will be the main goal. Obviously, we want to win.
“(Foard) might have lost a little bit of edge because they’re not really playing for anything either other than just the win. It will be interesting to see how everybody responds."
Fred T. Foard (16-2-1, 11-0) at West Iredell (14-4, 9-2)
6 p.m. Thursday
Note to fans: Thursday's girls soccer game at West Iredell is also West Iredell Soccer Association (WISA) recognition night. WISA players and coaches will be admitted free, and they will be recognized at approximately 5:30 p.m.