Hoggard girls soccer shuts out Ashley to claim MEC’s automatic 4A playoff berth

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When the NCHSAA girls soccer playoff brackets are released on May 6 there is a good chance Hoggard will be the No. 1 seed in the East.

The Vikings continued their stellar season with an impressive 2-0 victory at Ashley on Friday night to clinch at least a share of the Mideastern Conference title and clinch the league’s automatic 4A playoff berth.

Hoggard’s Kaitlin Neighbour scored the game-winning goal in the 13th minute. [Tim Hower/Coastal Preps]

Hoggard (18-2, 12-0), which swept Ashley and Laney, is currently ranked No. 2 in 4A in the MaxPreps state rankings. West Forsyth is No. 1, but they will be in the West bracket.

Despite their high MaxPreps rankings, Laney (No. 7) and Ashley (No. 12) will both wait on at-large berths and will be seeded behind automatic qualifiers.

“Laney and Ashley are both great programs and the girls have worked hard to earn those wins,” Hoggard coach Justin Schatz said. “We hope we don’t see either one of them in the playoffs.”

Kaitlin Neighbour headed home a corner kick from Sophie Southerland in the 13th minute to put the Vikings ahead. They controlled most of the possession in the first half playing with the wind at their back.

Ainsley Norr added an insurance goal in the 69th minute.

“We’ve been a second half team all year, but tonight and both games against Laney we were able to put one in early,” said Vikings goalkeeper Blair Barefoot, who made three saves to earn the clean sheet. “Over the next few games that’s what we’ve got to continue doing.”

Ashley (12-5-1, 9-3) got the wind advantage in the second half, but couldn’t capitalize. That has been the story for most of Hoggard’s opponents this season.

Through 20 games, the Vikings have outscored their opponents 105-6 and have 16 shutouts.

“What’s going to win games is putting the ball in the back of the net, but I’m not disappointed with the way we’re defending right now either,” Schatz said.