For the third time this year, the Havelock girls soccer team played the White Oak Vikings, and for the third time this year, the Rams lost to the defending state champions by a single goal.
MaryKate Helms scored the game-winning goal with 9:29 left to lift White Oak to a 3-2 victory over Havelock in the second round of the state 3A playoffs on Thursday in Jacksonville.
“At the end of the game, they got a break-away goal and we didn’t get back. Other than that, the girls played some fantastic ball tonight,” Havelock coach Jeff Harris said. “It was good soccer. I don’t think you’re going to see a game this good in the championship game. This was just a fantastic game. It seems like the only people who can take our conference out is our conference.”
The Rams, the fourth seed from the Coastal 3A Conference, ended the season 14-8 after dropping a close game to their conference rivals for the third time this year. Havelock also lost to White Oak (17-4) 1-0 on April 16 and 2-1 on March 14.
“My girls played hard,” Harris said. “They played the peak of their game. Both sides played hard. It was just good hard soccer.”
With the game tied at 2-2, Helms ran up toward the ball and blasted a 30-yard shot that went through the net. The score was set up following a long kick from goalkeeper Alexis Jones that sailed into Havelock’s defensive third of the field.
White Oak’s Ericca Lenhardt then played the ball, drawing Havelock goalie Amanda Alexander away from the goal. Lenhardt, Alexander and a defender then collided with the ball squirting away, only for Helms to run up and take an open shot.
“It was off Alexis’ punt and we know her punts are usually strong and …Ericca just made the run and the goalie came out and deflected it,” Helms said. “I was just there to put it in.”
White Oak was never threatened against after Helms’ deciding goal.
“We went a little bit more defensive just to make sure there were no lanes that were open,” White Oak coach Buddy Carroll said.
Havelock fell behind 1-0 and 2-1 in the match.
Natalie Johnson tied the match at 1-1 on an assist from Erica Quinn. And with the Rams down 2-1 with seven seconds left in the first half, Quinn tied the match at 2-2, scoring off a loose ball from 18 yards out.
“We felt like everything was going good,” Harris said of the late goal. “I think (Carroll) reorganized his defense and went more to a defensive team and just put his speed up top to try to beat our defense.
“We didn’t quite make the adjustments we needed to make. We didn’t get the crossing balls in the second half like we did in first half. We just did not get the quality shots.”
White Oak had 11 shots on goal compared to Havelock’s seven. Alexander made seven saves in goal for the Rams.