CENTREVILLE — North Caroline High’s Hailey Chester and her senior classmates were running out of chances.

“I’ve never beaten them in anything,” said Chester, who has played soccer, lacrosse and basketball against Queen Anne’s but had never come out on the winning side. “It’s been my goal all throughout my high school years.”

Chester finally got what she wanted Saturday morning, as her goal with 5 minutes, 41 seconds remaining in the first half proved to be enough to lift third-seeded North Caroline to a 1-0 victory over No. 2 Queen Anne’s in a Class 2A East Region II girls’ soccer semifinal at Lions Stadium.

The Bulldogs (8-3-1) will play either top-seeded Kent Island or No. 4 Parkside for the 2A East Region II title.

“It’s just so exciting,” Chester said. “This is my senior year and I did not want this to be my last game played. I’m just so happy.”

A game that was originally slated for Friday but canceled because of the heavy rains that doused the Mid-Shore, was rescheduled for an 8 a.m. start Saturday and the Bulldogs were ready.

“I thought the girls would be half asleep, but they were awake cheering in the parking lot at 6:10 this morning,” North Caroline head coach Jenna Riordan said. “They were ready to roll.”

Chester proved that in the second minute when she came down right wing and unloaded a shot that rolled just wide left of the far post. The Lions (9-3-1) had the next scoring chance, when Jessica Wright dropped a corner kick in front of the box that Bulldogs keeper Ashleigh Lawry quickly grabbed and cleared.

The battle for possession and field position waged on until Sydney Baker — who was sidelined for the Bulldogs’ 1-0 regular-season loss to the Lions — got a ball on the left side and dished to Chester, who struck a shot that got past Queen Anne’s keeper Bethany Nicholson and settled into the right corner of the net.

“It was a footrace, me and the defender,” Chester said of her goal. “And then I got around her and tapped it in.”

Queen Anne’s had a chance to tie less than 2 minutes later, when Olivia Ryan tried to reach a 50-50 ball with Lawry hurrying toward it. But just as Ryan reached the ball, she slipped and Lawry quickly covered the ball to preserve the one-goal lead. Ryan had another opportunity 50 seconds later as she gained possession after Lawry had slipped to the turf. But Ryan’s momentum toward the ball carried her too deep and her shot hit the left side of the net, leaving the Lions trailing by one at half.

The Lions had four corner-kick opportunities in the opening 18 minutes of the second half, but Lawry made a stop on one shot, and Queen Anne’s Sierra Lester sent a header over the crossbar on another chance with 22:07 left.

Chester had three chances to pad the Bulldogs lead in the final 9 minutes, the first ending in a collision with Nicholson around the 25 that left both players on the ground. Chester got up soon after, but Nicholoson was looked at by a trainer and then returned to finish the game.

Chester steered another shot wide of the left post with 7:36 remaining.

The Lions got their last quality chance with 3:50 left, when Jessica Wright, who scored both goals in the Lions’ 2-0 victory over James M. Bennett in Tuesday’s Bayside Conference championship, hit a direct kick that sailed over the goal.

Almost 2 minutes later, Chester again made a deep run and again watched her shot just miss its intended destination.

“It’s always been a very hard fight against QA and I think we were ready for it today,” Riordan said with a beaming smile afterwards. “We earned that one. That was a lot of hard work.”

North Caroline was out two starters — Jordan Schatzley and Baker — in the regular season. The Lions were down three starters due to injury Saturday, the third coming in Tuesday’s Bayside clash, when Kylie Charles went down with a leg injury. And while Queen Anne’s head coach Mike Kern said he had to shift his personnel, he applauded the Bulldogs.

“We’ve had North Caroline’s number,” said Kern, who had never lost to the Bulldogs as the Lions head soccer coach, and would have notched his 250th career win with a victory Saturday. “Great game. They got the break. They got a breakaway and put it away. And we weren’t able to find the goal.

“We had our chances,” Kern continued. “We had many corner kicks. Got the ball inside the box, couple of free kicks, too. Couple runs we made right there (at the end and their) goalie came out. We just couldn’t get it in, and that happens sometimes. I credit North Caroline. They played a good game. They’ve got a good group of seniors and they’ve got a really good team.”

Follow me on Twitter @Bill_Haufe. Email me at bhaufe@stardem.com

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