CHARLOTTE — When Charlotte Latin’s Brooke Bellavia crossed a perfectly placed ball atop the Providence Day defense that found teammate Sarah Watson for a beautiful cross-and-volley goal, there had to have been some Providence Day faithful fans with an unwelcome yet familiar feeling.
Watson’s score had put Charlotte Latin up 1-0 in the NCISAA girls soccer championship at the top-seeded Hawks’ Patten Stadium.
Charlotte Latin had earned the top seed after going 17-3-1 to that point, and the Hawks were winners of 10 straight despite splitting two games with Providence Day during the regular season.
During that stretch, they’d allowed just four goals behind star goalkeeper Ruthie Jones. The Hawks were battle tested having won each of the previous four state championships.
That was the part that stung so bad about Watson’s score, which came early in the first half.
This final was the fifth straight title game for the Hawks and now the fourth against the Chargers who had gone 0-3 in championship games against Latin during that stretch.
But this year, the Chargers had a different mindset after falling behind 1-0 early.
“I think we knew we were the better team coming in,” said tri-captain Morgan Hart. “We just needed to calm down and play our game. Even after they got that first goal, we all still believed we could come back and win this game.”
With the score still scoreless nearing halftime, Providence Day finally cashed in on one of its chances.
Hart, who led the team with 25 assists and was the co-leader with 29 goals scored this season, assisted freshman Maggie Carabell, who got the Chargers on the board with just two minutes left in the half.
“I honestly felt, even when we were down 1-0, that we had enough attackers to get ourselves back in the game but they had the great keeper so we needed to be patient,” said Providence Day coach Dan Dudley. “That goal was key. When you have two minutes to go and to get that was really big for us going into halftime.”
After Latin opened the game with their goal, the Hawks struggled to get past the Charger defense, and that trend only intensified in the second half with captains Louisa Bynum and Taylor France shutting down most of the few real offensive chances the Hawks got in the second half.
“These guys are amazing,” Hart said. “Latin has all-state forwards dribbling and driving at them, but I’ve never seen anyone so calm. I don’t think they got past our wing backs much less these two. They were great leaders back there for us.”
While the Hawks were quite literally on lockdown, the Chargers attacked relentlessly, but time and time again Jones would turn them away.
As regulation ticked away, the two teams set to play two 10-minute overtime periods, and it didn’t take long for the Chargers to assert their will.
“I think we had to use our other losses this season to fuel us,” France said. “We knew what losing felt like, and we weren’t losing this time. We just needed to push forward.”
Sophomore Petra Caldwell scored in the first overtime to give the Chargers a 2-1 lead after Providence Day had peppered shots at Jones all day long.
“I think they started to get tired and we were able to keep pushing,” Dudley said. “If you look at the shot count, that is what tells you the story. There’s a difference between out-shooting them and taking care of business. I think we had enough offensive firepower to get back in the game. Once we scored, we were off.
“At the end of the day, the cream rises to the top. We just had to be patient and we found a way.”
Katerina Peroulas scored the final goal off an assist from Morgan Hart and the Chargers were champions once again after winning back-to-back titles in 2013-14.
Now, with just four seniors graduating and a crop of newcomers that Dudley is excited about ready to step in, this could be a run the Chargers could be on for some time.
“I think a lot of it was a mental block. We’ve lost to them four times, and I think it was a matter of us just getting over that hump,” he said. “And we did. For me, that was for all of the girls that have come before them. But also now, they’ve set the precedent for all that will come later because the pendulum has swung back to us and that sound of town. I think that helps with the young girls we’re re-loading with.”