CARY — Raleigh Charter won one for their head coach Wednesday night.
Playing without head coach Steve Grosso, who was away on business, the Phoenix knocked off Franklin Academy 1-0 at WakeMed Soccer Park to advance to the fourth round of the NCHSAA 1A girls soccer playoffs.
"He was there with us in spirit," said senior Alexa Dreyer, whose second-half goal was the difference.
Assistant coach Rebecca Flammia, who filled in Wednesday, read the team an e-mail message from Grosso at practice Monday that got the Phoenix (19-1-1) ready.
"The ladies were gung ho to win this for him," Flammia said.
Grosso will be back for Raleigh Charter's next game at No. 1-seed Whiteville.
He'll have a tall order to do as well as Flammia, whose halftime adjustments helped the Phoenix offense perform much more effectively in the second half.
"There were a couple of position switches, and during halftime, we talked about … possessing better instead of lobbing some through balls for the offense to chase down," Flammia said. "They really put their heads together, started communicating more and passing more, so I think that helped."
Dreyer was superb in the second half, generating four scoring chances with her dribbling and passing. Finally, in the 66th minute, after colliding with Franklin's Jessica Graham, Dreyer found herself alone in the box and drilled a shot over Patriots' keeper Amelia Huffman.
"The ball came across, and I had one defender," Dreyer said. "I tried to take a touch, and I saw an open goal. I said, 'OK, this keeper is really good, so I should probably just take a shot.' Luckily it went in."
Franklin Academy coach Scott Graham, Jessica's father, wanted a foul called on Dreyer.
"It's a tough call," Graham said. "Both girls were battling for the ball, but my player got knocked down, and you would like to get a call there. Unfortunately, we didn't, and they converted on the opportunity."
Dreyer said she was simply trying to cover the ball to keep possession.
"I wasn't purposely trying to push anyone," Dreyer said. "I just know how to center my body on the ball to shield it. Unfortunately, she just fell."
The Patriots (15-6), who had lost 4-0 and 2-1 in prior meetings this season with Raleigh Charter, came out quickly in the first half. Aly Chura made several good runs down the left wing, while Kiera Stephan was effective in the middle of the field.
Graham figured a quick a start would be crucial, for the Phoenix had not been tested in its previous two playoff games.
"That's what I told the girls: 'Let's take advantage of it. They might come out a little slow because they haven’t been tested,''' Graham said. "I think we did. In the first half, we were aggressive and had more shots on goal. But Raleigh Charter, if you let up one time, they're going to take advantage, and they did."
While the loss certainly stung, Graham knows he has plenty of talent coming back, including Huffman, who made a brilliant diving save to keep the game scoreless in the second half.
Plus, Graham started six freshmen Wednesday.
"Remember this feeling," Graham told his team after the game. "We're going to be back for years to come."