NCISAA State Champions!!!

Opposing a Winterville Christ Covenant team steeped in youth but able to function offensively if given room, Greenfield’s hungry defense made the Spartans pay for each early mistake.

Two such giveaways set the early tone with a pair of goals six minutes in, and the Lady Knights proceeded to break down the back line of Christ Covenant with relative ease on the way to a 10-3 victory that granted Greenfield (20-2), the No. 1 seed out of the East region, its eighth NCISAA championship in program history and first since 2012.

“I was talking to (assistant coach Justin) Coach Wilkinson prior to the game, and I always felt that if we got on the board early, it would ease the tension that we have been feeling the last few games,” Greenfield head coach Randol Mendoza said. “We proved that we could overcome the deficit, but it’s not something we try to go after. So for us to do the exact opposite, to jump on them and get quick strikes and get the goals on the board, it lets us play with more creativity.”

Three different players produced hat tricks for Greenfield, with sophomore Kat Stanley, freshman Serenity McNair and eighth grader Avery Williams providing the balance of the scoring. Stanley had four goals, including her first in the third minute after collecting a Christ Covenant turnover and sending it past Spartans goalkeeper Olivia Entzminger.

The margin was doubled in the sixth minute with Greenfield collecting another Christ Covenant turnover. Junior Juliette Robles crossed it into the box, but Entzminger couldn’t cleanly collect the service. McNair took advantage, kicking in the carom to put Greenfield up 2-0.

On its way to opening up a 6-0 lead, the Lady Knights put in two more finishes by way of the corner kick. Williams played a short corner to Stanley, who found space and put it away. In the 15th, Stanley took the corner kick, with McNair emerging from a crowded mass of bodies and booting it past Entzminger.

Greenfield put 15 shots on frame and took seven corner kicks against Christ Covenant (7-2), the No. 3 seed from the East playing out of the split 1-A/2-A Coastal Independents Conference.

Stanley became the equivalent of a soccer point guard, directing teammates all over the field and dazzling the crowd with a variety of on-ball moves that left defenders examining the integrity of their ankles.

“This is my sport, and this is one of my favorite things to do,” Stanley said. “Just coming out here whether we’re playing the best team in the world or just any team, I just have a blast coming out here.”

Stanley gave Greenfield a 7-1 cushion before halftime, dribbling into the box in the 39th minute and sending a shot off the post and in. McNair capped off her hat trick before halftime, collecting a second bobble from Entzminger and using her chest to eke the ball past the goal line.

“I think that’s where the rotations that we made with the substitutions, we were trying to keep fresh legs,” Mendoza said. “That way, we can keep the high pressure and not wear ourselves so much. The substitutions that we made were key in keeping that pressure high.”

Williams struck again in the 42nd for Greenfield, taking a shot generated by a Stanley deflection and putting it away. Stanley, given ample space to operate in the 61st, ran onto the ball and put away a finish from 25 yards away that left Entzminger defenseless.

With 10:36 to play, Williams penetrated the Spartans penalty area and put away her third goal by slotting it home to complete the scoring.

Christ Covenant was given a reprieve from the constant pressure in the second half, with the outcome leading to a pair of goals and the contesting of the entire 80 minutes. Sophomore Jeallen Holland tallied four saves for the Lady Knights, with Entzminger making four stops for Christ Covenant.

“We have a young team,” Christ Covenant head coach Omar Chahid reflected. “Half the team is very young, eighth graders. We don’t have that caliber for us to compete against Greenfield. They’re loaded. It’s a good team, but we kept up with them until the end of the game — no matter what the score is.”

Greenfield’s three-member senior class of Sallie Gliarmis, Margaret Covington and Ryann Jennings concluded their respective careers with a championship in returning the Lady Knights to the summit of NCISAA 1-A soccer.

“I think we really never gave up on each other,” Stanley said. “We knew that if we could come back from being 3-0 and work together and just work through it, that when we came to this game, we knew that we had a really good chance at it.”