CORNELIUS – The Hough High girls’ soccer team didn’t falter when forced into extra time last week.

In the N.C. 4A semifinal against Myers Park, the Huskies played into the fourth overtime period before sophomore Alex Denny ended it with a goal.

Four days later, Hough was extended to a fourth overtime period again, this time against Cary Panther Creek in the N.C. 4A championship game. The teams battled through 80 scoreless minutes of regulation, two 10-minute overtime periods, a five-minute sudden death period and almost two minutes of another extra frame.

That’s when Hough senior midfielder Courtney Carroll settled matters.

She blasted a high-arching shot from about 30 yards out. The leaping goalkeeper couldn’t get a hand on the perfectly placed shot that gave Hough a 1-0 victory and second state championship in the past three seasons.

Carroll was swamped by teammates at N.C. State’s Dail Field, creating a pile of exhaustion and exhilaration.

“It wasn’t a chip shot and it wasn’t a rocket,” Hough coach David Smith said. “It was just perfectly placed.”

Carroll’s winner was set up when teammate Emma Cangalosi, near midfield, kept a ball from going into Panther Creek’s half of the field. She passed to Emmily Cowie, who made a short, quick pass to Anna Roach. Roach fed Carroll for the shot that they’ll all remember.

“I looked at the ref to make sure there wasn’t a (nullifying) call,” Smith said. “Then the exhaustion of the day and the magnitude hit me. We were all stunned for a moment.”

It capped a season of stunning moments for Hough. The Huskies were 25-0-2 and easily rolled to the MECKA 4A conference championship. They spent most of the season as the state’s top-ranked team and were No. 1 and No. 2 in a national poll.

Hough posted 21 shutouts. It scored 126 goals, which could’ve been more if not for mercy rules that often ended their games when the margin reached nine goals. Carroll, named Most Valuable Player at the state championship, led a deep Hough offense with 29 goals and 21 assists.

The Huskies’ attack also included Alex Denny (19 goals, nine assists), Sarah Moon (11 goals, nine assists), Cowie (10 goals, nine assists), Nicole Duncan (six goals, 17 assists), Ashley Johnson (eight goals, 13 assists) and Roach (12 goals, four assists).

Hough’s stout defense was backed by goalkeeper Marnie Merritt, who allowed a scant nine goals in 27 games. The top defenders were Nicole Ferren, Blair Timberlake, Olivia DeMarcus and Cangalosi. 

Like most champions, Hough peaked in the playoffs. It allowed one goal in six playoff matches.

“Our grit and skill came through,” Smith said. “I like the way they responded to preseason polls in a `together’ kind of way. It was a united way. Senior leadership was huge. All nine seniors played different roles. All of them worked hard and set good examples for the younger girls. This group set the tone for Hough soccer. Someone asked me after the game to describe the team in one word. All I could think of was ‘together.”