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Central beats Piedmont 3-1, moves to third round of 2-A soccer playoffs

Central Davidson goal keeper Chandler Young makes a save in the final minutes of Central’s second-round 2-A playoff match against Piedmont on Friday night. (Photo by Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch)

Haley Westervelt scored the go-ahead goal in the second half and added two assists as Central Davidson defeated Piedmont 3-1 Friday night in the second round of the girls’ 2-A soccer playoffs at Spartan Community Stadium.

The Spartans, No. 3 in the state and now 20-1-1, recorded a late insurance goal from Kayla Semonco, who also had an assist, to advance to the third round for the second straight year. Central Davidson will face the winner between top-ranked Forbush and Wheatmore, who play Saturday night at Forbush.

Central coach Chad Hench said his team will have to play better next week to continue advancing. Still, he was pleased with the victory.

“Obviously thrilled to keep playing, but we did not play our best game tonight,” Hench said. “We probably got into a little bit of what they wanted us to do.

“We’re going to have to play better if we want to keep playing. We can’t play like this as we go forward.”

The Spartans, the top seed from the Central Carolina Conference, struck quickly. Paige Chavis gained control just past midfield and passed to Westervelt, who played a ball back to Chavis. The senior raced past the Panthers’ defense and scored over Piedmont keeper Brooke Kelly for a 1-0 lead just 2:16 into the game.

“We talked about scoring early on them. We wanted to get that first goal, and we had momentum and kept the ball up the field,” Hench said.

Central Davidson kept the pressure on, and Chavis just missed a couple of scoring chances. But Piedmont tied the game against the run of play when Brooke Whetzel broke free down the right wing and crossed to Michaela Larrison, who headed the ball in to tie it 1-1 with 24:28 left in the first half.

Both teams had several scoring chances the rest of the half. Most of Central Davidson’s came as Chavis’ speed continued to cause problems for the Piedmont defense, and she either just missed or Kelly made saves. The Panthers had three direct kicks just outside the Spartans’ penalty box, but all three shots sailed high.

Central Davidson regained the lead with 27:52 remaining in the match. Semonco played a through ball to Westervelt, who outpaced the Piedmont defense to the right of the goal. She slotted home the go-ahead score to the back left corner of the net for a 2-1 lead.

“At halftime we calmed did a little bit,” Hench said. “We were still playing some through balls, but we started playing a little bit more to the wings. That second goal was out to Kayla (Semonco), then across. That’s a little bit more like what we’re used to seeing out of us.”

Kelly continued to come off her line and smother several Spartan scoring opportunities as the half wore on.

The final goal came with just 2:47 left. Semonco played a short corner kick from the left corner to Westervelt, who tapped the ball back to Semonco. She scored from about 25 yards out on the left wing.

“The third goal was just a little thing we drew up on a corner kick,” Hench said. “Getting that third goal late in the game like that … the next time they run down the field you don’t hold your breath as much. It gave us a little bit of breathing room.”

The Spartans outshot the Panthers 26-15 and led in corner kicks 4-2. Kelly recorded 18 saves for Piedmont while Chandler Young had 14 for Central Davidson.

“Chandler had a good game,” Hench said. “She continues to play well.”

The coach also praised the play of Kammi Cox, who played several different defensive positions.

“She is all over the field. She is one of those players that you look at the stat line, she’s not going to impress you necessarily, but she is essential out there on the field where she plays.”

Piedmont, the No. 2 seed from the Rocky River Conference, finished the season at 12-5-1.