For the second consecutive year, the Cardinals saw their season end with a home postseason loss to Eastern Alamance, this time a 2-0 decision Monday night in the third round of the NCHSAA 3-A playoffs.
It came a little more than a year after Jacksonville lost 1-0 to the Eagles in the first round. And like that first meeting, the Cardinals continued to fight until the end, only to come up short.
“There is nothing we can do or say to take the hurt away from them,” Pelch said. “They fought until the last minute of the game, but tonight just didn’t go our way. But where we were at the beginning of the season to now, they have so much to be proud of and it says something about their character and heart.”
The fourth-seeded Cardinals (14-5-1) overcame the graduation of eight seniors and preseason injuries to win the Big Carolina 3-A/4-A Conference title, their sixth straight league crown. They entered the third round on a nine-game winning streak, a highlight of a season that was hindered by the cancelation of several games for weather and teams folding.
“We had such an up and down season with so many things happening, but our girls always fought,” Pelch said. “We got better with each team we played. You saw how much tenacity this team played with.”
But fifth-seeded Eastern Alamance (18-3-1) again proved too strong in a match that was marred by a nearly 90-minute delay just five minutes into the second half because of inclement weather.
The final result was tough for the Cardinals. Not only were the five seniors emotional, Jacksonville’s underclassmen also took the ending hard.
“That says a lot,” Pelch said. “Our seniors and captains tried so hard to make this about being a team, not just as seniors, juniors and sophomores. They have been great about us winning as a team and losing as a team.”
Still, the different classes wanted to win for the other.
“Even during the rain delay, the underclassmen were like ‘we have to play for the seniors,’ and the seniors were like ‘We want to win for you guys,’” Pelch said. “That speaks highly of them as individuals.”
The Cardinals lose standout seniors Sarah McConnell and Emma LaFave, but return rising juniors Landyn Wessels and Mackenzie Morrow and rising seniors Abigail Sutton and Braelyn Hodnefield.
“They all played hard,” Pelch said. “That is all we can ask of them.”
Chris Miller can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter @jdnsports.
This article originally appeared on The Daily News: Jacksonville girls soccer falls 2-0 to Eastern Alamance in third round