Murphy teams set for playoff openers
Murphy - A year after making a run to the third round of the state playoffs, Murphy’s girls soccer team is thinking about making another deep postseason push.
The Lady Bulldogs took the first step Tuesday with a dominant 3-0 win over North Stokes.
That earned Murphy a second-round matchup with Gray Stone Day on the road Friday.
Avery Taylor scored twice and Chloe Decker added a goal for Murphy (12-4, No. 10 seed), which controlled play for much of the night.
“We had control of the game, no doubt,” Murphy coach Kim Brownlee said. “We had some chances to score more and we will need to finish better to get further in this tournament. But we have worked hard on our possession, and when we have possession, they can’t score.”
Murphy has a senior-laden team that knows how to win in the playoffs.
“We just need to trust each other and keep fighting,” Murphy senior Bailey Mock said. “I think we can make a deeper run this year if we play hard.”
“It gets tougher from here on out against charter schools and club players,” Brownlee said. “But we have pretty tough girls over here in the western part of the state.”
The Murphy Lady Bulldogs proved they belong in the postseason.
Playing host to the Union Academy Lady Cardinals (13-7, No. 23 seed) in the first round of the 1A state playoffs, Murphy (15-2, No. 10) pounded 15 runs onto the scoreboard.
Compounded by 10 strikeouts from junior hurler Taylor Ledford, the Lady Dogs advanced to the second round in a 5-inning, 15-0 rout.
"All the glory goes to God," Ledford said of her dominant showing. "It gave me the confidence that I needed. Getting home runs hit off me (four in an 11-0 loss to Robbinsville on Saturday) isn't always the best. But 10 strikeouts? That definitely helped me a lot.
"I think we'll be good for the second round. If we keep a level head and don't get ahead of ourselves, then we'll be good."
Junior outfielder Hailey Bowman drove in five RBIs, including a 3-run double and a 2-run triple.
"The first round of the playoffs is always harder, because you don't know what to expect," Bowman said. "This big of a win is kind of a shock, but I know what our team is capable of.
"I just relaxed, listened to Coach (Thomas) Nelson and knew I had my whole team behind me if I messed up," Bowman added of her big game.
Bowman, Adrianna Cross, Grace Nelson and Annie Kate Dalton all tripled, with the latter also singling, doubling and plating three Murphy runs.
Murphy will travel to Lincoln Charter (20-3, No. 7 seed) to face the Lady Eagles on Friday.
It's an unfamiliar position for Murphy to be in: sent home early in the postseason.
But the Bulldogs (13-5, No. 13 seed) watched a 3-1 lead quickly slip away in the third inning Tuesday night, as the Pine Lake Preparatory Academy Pride (12-8, No. 20) knocked off Murphy 12-7 at Flip Watson Field.
A mini-rally fell short in the bottom of the seventh, as the Dogs brought four runs across the plate and seemed to be on the brink of a major comeback.
The loss is the first time Murphy has been eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs since 2014.
Pine Lake Prep will now travel to Polk County for the second round Friday.