Top-seeded Reynolds boys soccer was hoping for a manner of redemption Saturday afternoon against No. 4 South Mecklenburg.
The Demons accomplished just that in the quarterfinals of the NCHSAA Class 4-A playoffs at the blustery Bolton Soccer Complex with a 2-0 shutout against the Sabres.
In 2018, South Mecklenburg ended Reynolds' season with a 4-1 win in the third round of the playoffs. In 2019, Reynolds had a first-half penalty-kick goal from Jack Doherty, and Doherty followed that in the second half with an assist on a goal by Aldair Anica-Hernandez to help shut out South Mecklenburg.
"I think this was definitely a bit of a redemption game," Coach Tony Sabio of the Demons said. "We talked about it beforehand. We talked about the fact that last year we had some things not go our way, and we hung our heads and we didn't get up and get after it.
"And that's kind of what we've been working on in — making sure that we don't get stuck in one random bad moment of time, and let that trip us up for the next 80 minutes."
Reynolds (18-2-1) will play No. 2 Northwest Guilford (21-1-2), which defeated No. 3 Charlotte Myers Park 2-1 Saturday night, at 6 p.m. on Tuesday in the semifinals. That game will take place at Bolton Soccer Complex.
Much has changed for South Mecklenburg (19-4-1) since last year.
"Two completely different groups," said Eric White, the head coach of the Sabres. "We lost 13 seniors from last year, so there was only two players here that even contributed in that match last year. So it was much different."
The Sabres controlled play for much of the first half, but the Demons were awarded a penalty kick after a foul in the box with 1:25 left in the first half. Doherty, a senior for Reynolds, fired the penalty kick to the center of the goal for a 1-0 lead.
"It's always great to go up a goal early," Doherty said. "And it really just gave us some momentum through the stretch."
Reynolds led 1-0 at halftime, and it had the chance to make some adjustments ahead of the second half.
"Things ebb and flow with momentum and throughout the course of the game," Sabio said. "It's just all about making sure that when the momentum is not going your way that you're patient enough to know that it's going to come your way again and you've got to capitalize."
The Demons took immediate control in the second half. Anica-Hernandez received a perfectly placed cross from Doherty and fired it into the goal for a 2-0 lead at 51:16.
"(Doherty) had the cross, and I just went in in front of the defender and just tapped it in," Anica-Hernandez said. "It felt good."
The play has become a regular part of the offensive repertoire for Reynolds.
"We love to do that and bring it down the wing and cross it in," Doherty said. "And it works a lot of the time. I'm just glad we were able to finish it."
Despite leading by two goals, the Demons kept pressing and had several more chances to score.
"If we would've sat back, I think it would've been different," Anica-Herandez said. "I think they would've scored. They would've come out harder and tied and then PKs. We didn't want that. We just kept pressuring them and kept playing them how we play."
The Demons will now focus their attention to Tuesday's semifinal, with the winner playing in next weekend's state championship.
"I think by doing everything the way that we have all season, and the way that we've done things all season was the only game that is the one that's right in front of you," Sabio said. "And we took that mantra into our conference play (Central Piedmont 4-A), and that's why we went 10-0 in conference.
"I think as long as we do that, we're going to be fine. Only one team's going to win Tuesday, but we haven't lost here at home. So I'm betting on us."