Woods Charter falls to Christ the King in third straight state title matchup, 5-0

The Wolves couldn’t contain Addison Peirce, who scored four goals


MATTHEWS — Slow paces, hugs, face palms and tears.

For the end of Saturday’s North Carolina High School Athletic Association 1A girls’ soccer state championship game, No. 2 Woods Charter hoped a reaction as such would be due to finally getting over the hump and bringing a state title home to Chapel Hill.

However, it just illustrated another painful defeat — the kind the Wolves know all too well.

With a morning kickoff at the Mecklenburg County Sportsplex, Woods Charter fell to No. 12 Christ the King in the 1A state final for the third year in a row, 5-0.

For Woods, the Crusaders were a familiar name, but after they lost 11 seniors from their 2023 roster, the defending state champions weren’t much of a familiar opponent.

In fact, it was a Christ the King freshman, Addison Peirce, that gave the Wolves problems throughout the game.

Just six minutes into competition, Peirce tracked down a ball tapped by her teammate, outran two Woods defenders to the right side of the goal and found the back of the net, giving the Crusaders an early 1-0 lead.

Four minutes later, Peirce outraced Woods’ Jessica Haswell on a long outlet pass and hit another shot from close range to put Christ the King up two goals.

With just over 28 minutes left to play in the first half, Peirce secured a hat trick by doing the same thing: using her speed to track down a far kick and get behind Woods’ defense for an easy score.

“They’ve got quality all over,” Woods Charter head coach Graeme Stewart said. “They’ve got two center backs that are pretty impressive, and they got a quick speedster outside who’s also pretty impressive for young kids.”

After those three goals in a span of six minutes, the Wolves were in a deep hole with the majority of the game ahead of them. In the beginning of the first half, Christ the King played with more speed and physicality on both sides of the ball, controlling the majority of the possession.

Woods settled down a bit defensively later in the opening half, but the Crusaders still limited its ability to get quality shots on the goal. The Wolves took just three shots in the first half with two coming after Christ the King built the 3-0 lead.

In the second half, Woods started with more urgency on the defensive end, making more challenges to loose balls and matching Christ the King’s physicality. The Wolves didn’t allow a shot to the Crusaders for the first 16 minutes of the period until Peirce once again found the back of the net with 23:45 left to play, putting the Crusaders up, 4-0.

From that point, the deficit became too much for Woods to overcome. The Wolves attempted four shots in the second half, but none of them connected, causing them to be shut out for the first time since the 4-0 loss to Seaforth on April 16.

Christ the King senior Brianna Pacholski put the icing on the cake with a goal from beyond the penalty area, putting the Crusaders up five with just over 14 minutes left to play.

At the final buzzer, Stewart got on one knee and held his face in his hand as Christ the King began its celebration on the field. As great of an achievement that three straight state championship appearances is, not coming away with one title is just as “devastating.”

Nonetheless, the Wolves still had reason to hold their heads high.

“One day doesn’t change, in my opinion, a fantastic season (and) a fantastic group of kids that have given their all for this team,” Stewart said. “They’ve bought into everything that we’ve done, and they’ve represented the school amazingly. Today doesn’t change that. I’m so proud of every single one of them.”

Woods finished with a 22-5-1 record and will lose 10 seniors following this season. After the game, Stewart took the time to sit and talk to senior Leyla Noronha for a while on the sideline.

“It’s just talking about (how) sometimes things don’t work out in life the way you want them to,” Stewart said. “She put this team on her shoulders countless times over the years. Nothing about today will change that, and I just wanted her to know that I’m extremely proud of her as I am of all of the seniors who’ve gotten us to this position.”

Stewart is optimistic about his returning group and new faces coming in from middle school buying into the program. Despite not getting the job done in the last three seasons, the program has a high standard to uphold that still has room to be raised to championship-winning level.