Victories from Ashley and Hoggard set up semifinal showdown

For the first time in history, a pair of New Hanover County girls soccer teams will square off in the 4A East Regional final.

Top-seeded Ashley scored a pair of first-half goals en route to a 2-1 victory over No. 5 Cardinal Gibbons. Eight miles up College Road, sophomore Brielle Archer found the back of the net in overtime to lift No. 11 Hoggard to a 2-1 win over No. 15 Heritage. 

The rivals will square off for the third and final time this season Tuesday night (time TBA) at Ashley with a berth in the state championship on the line. 

The Screaming Eagles earned a 3-1 road victory on March 26, and the teams battled to a 1-1 draw on April 26. 

The only other time two New Hanover County schools met in the soccer semifinals came back in the fall of 2015 when the Laney boys earned a hard-fought 1-0 overtime victory against visiting New Hanover in front of a standing-room only crowd. 

On Thursday night, Ashley (22-0-2) jumped out to a quick lead when Savannah Manset scored her eighth goal of the postseason on shot from just outside the box in the seventh minute. 

Ashley’s Savannah Manset. [Ron Hower/Coastal Preps]

The Screaming Eagles doubled the advantage in the 24th minute when Kieran Bradley found the back of the net on a rebound off a shot from Karina Peat that hit the post. 

Sensing its season was coming to a close, Cardinal Gibbons (17-4-2) cranked up the intensity late and scored with just over two minutes remaining. It was too little, too late. Ashley is headed back to the East final for the second consecutive season. 

Hoggard (20-3-2) will be making its 10th appearance in the East final since 2010 after picking up its seventh consecutive win. 

The Vikings haven’t tasted defeat since that March meeting with their rival.  

Junior Ellis Kelly slid home the opening goal of the game with just over three minutes remaining in the first half. It increased her school-record total to 57 on the season and moved her into a tie for 30th in NCHSAA history. 

The state record of 96 was set by Wheatmore’s Ellie Garrison in 2023. 

“We’ve been working really hard and we’ve definitely improved a lot single the beginning of the season,” Kelly said. ”

Heritage (14-6-4) evened the score in the 65th minute. Four minutes later, Hoggard squandered a golden opportunity to regain the lead when Huskies goalkeeper Audrey Hatch came way out of her net. Kelly beat her to the ball and found Archer in front of the vacant goal, but her shot missed the target.

Archer got redemption five minutes into the first 10-minute overtime period. Classmate Avery Fisher dribbled down the left sideline before sending a cross into the box that was volleyed in by Archer. 

Hoggard’s Brielle Archer. [Tim Hower/Coastal Preps]

“When I got back to the sideline, every single person was supporting me and had my back, and that’s Hoggard soccer,” Archer said. “It helped me regain my confidence.”