GARNER — The shame, some might suggest, is that in any sport all but one team’s season ends with failure, be it a game in some form of postseason or be it in not making the postseason at all.
For the Garner soccer team, its fate was of the more popular variety as its successful season ended in the second round of the NCHSAA 4A boys soccer playoffs with a 6-2 drubbing by Wilmington Laney Saturday afternoon at Trojan Stadium.
The Buccaneers, a squad with the looks of an ideal one-and-you’re-done side, possess both a difficult defense for opposing teams to crack as well as a very efficient offense capable of finding the back of net without needing a lot of opportunities to do so.
The flow of the game for the first 15 minutes was dictated by Garner, with the Trojans owning most of the possession on the Buccaneers’ half of the field.
But with no goals or even great scoring chances to show for Garner’s dominance, Laney struck first on its first shot of the match in the 15th minute. A give-and-go resulted in Nathaniel Lorenz finding Brian Pinder alone behind the Trojan defense for an easy pass to the back of the net for the 1-0 lead.
On a free kick eight minutes later, Pinder, the team’s leading goal scorer, served as the decoy when he stepped over the ball so senior midfielder Tyler Gioielli could slyly find the near post from 25 yards for a 2-0 advantage.
The two-goal deficit was a huge blow to the Garner morale.
“I really feel like they quit after that second goal,” Garner coach Jon Sherwin said of his team’s initial response. “It started with the passes getting a little tight and then no one was going to the ball and then it just gradually fell apart.
“Sometimes you just dig yourself a hole that you can’t get out of.”
After each of the Buccaneers’ first two scores, Garner threatened to answer back only to have Laney goalkeeper Stephen Lapp twice make leaping saves to deny certain goals.
Senior midfielder Marco Perez found Thomas Dinka in the box off of a well-placed free kick but Dinka’s solid header from point blank range was pushed just over the crossbar. In the 26th minute, Perez sent a direct free kick towards the upper corner of the goal where Lapp once again deflected the ball to safety.
Gioielli and Pinder both found the net again as the No. 11 seeded Buccaneers (16-4-2) stretched their lead to 6-0 midway through the second half with the six goals coming off just 10 total shots.
Junior Ayala finally got the Trojans on the board with 15 minutes left and then Dinka found Zach Hancock on a nice cross to score Garner’s final goal of a successful campaign.
A season after winning its first ever conference title, the Trojans went unbeaten in the GNRC this season to claim back-to-back titles en route to its 17-5-1 mark.
Seniors Dinka, Joe Giroux, Gustavo Gonzalez-Soto, Hancock, Salvadore Joya, Kody Kamphuis, Perez, Sammy Stancil and Luis Rios helped to elevate the program to a level it hadn’t previously reached and a level that future Trojan teams can look to build upon.
“When they think back about the season, this game will fade,” said Sherwin. “We had a lot of success this season and there were a lot of times with our backs up against the wall and we came through; this wasn’t one of those times."