The game had been over for more than 20 minutes on Thursday, but there stood the Green Hope girls soccer parents. They jingled keys, paced back and forth, talked to friends or checked their watches to pass the time.
The Falcons had just lost 2-0 at Chapel Hill High, and the players held a post-game meeting on the field. It lasted a while. They stood in a circle and alternated talking to the group as coach Michael Hoy sat on the bleachers.
Green Hope was always going to be in a different position to start this year. Replicating last year’s spotless 28-0 record with almost an entirely new lineup and a new coach would have been dismissed as impossible were it not for the Falcons’ boys team doing something very similar in 2013.
A talk to sort out new responsibilities, expectations and communication parameters was needed at some point, and it just so happened that losing to an experienced Tigers team (4-0, 1-0 Big Eight 3A) was the trigger. Hoy was pleased to see his players hash everything out.
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“These things need to happen. The coaching staff shouldn’t be involved with everything. We really need to step back and let them guide themselves,” he said. “I’m confident because we’ve got 22 of the most dedicated, sweetest girls in the world. Not a mean bone in the entire team’s body, so they’re going to figure it out. They’re smart.”
Hoy continued: “This is a team in growth mode. We have a number of returning players, but because of how strong the senior class was last year, this is still the first time they’ve been counted on. ... There are going to be nights and halves where we bang our heads against the wall, and there are going to be nights and halves where we’re flying. This is about where I expected us to be.”
Chapel Hill came out so strong that UNC-Chapel Hill recruit Alexandra Kimball almost scored 30 seconds into the game. That pressure on Green Hope’s defense lasted the rest of the half as Chapel Hill had eight shots on goal to Green Hope’s one.
But with some nice saves by Green Hope goalkeeper Lilly Dunn, it was scoreless at halftime.
In the 42nd minute, Chapel Hill senior Megan Dell put the Tigers up 1-0 after finishing a scrum in front of the goal with her nose.
“The ball came in, it bounced up, and I think Sofie (Nielsen) volleyed it and it bounced off the goalie’s hand and then their left back Amanda (Lasater) kicked it out,” Dell said. “She’s left-footed, so she kicked it as hard as she could and my face was in the way.”
The ricochet knocked Dell clear off her cleats. Her teammates picked her up and informed her that she had scored.
After some of her most brilliant plays had already taken place without a goal, Kimball scored five minutes later.
She thought she had slotted in the goal from the left side of the pitch, but a Green Hope defender hustled to keep it off the line by a hair. Kimball had seen the play develop and, determined to not be denied a goal by the crossbar, goalkeeper or a matter of inches again, she ran over and slammed the ball into the net.
“It was rolling somewhat slow and I saw the defender. She came to roll it off the line. But I said, ‘She’s not taking this away from me!’ so I came in and just nailed it in as hard as I could,” Kimball said. “I was getting fed up, so it was nice to have that one in the second half.”
While Green Hope’s midfield struggled to hold its shape at times while trying to defend Kimball and the like, it corrected most of that during an exciting final 20 minutes that saw the Falcons (3-1-2, 1-0-1 Southwest Wake 4A) get their form together and threaten the Chapel Hill goal.
“We’re right on track. This is a team that needs time. They need practice, they need games,” Hoy said. “It took us 60 minutes to find a foothold in the game. We switched formations. ... It’s always difficult making that switch in the middle of the game, but that’s kind of the way this team is right now. We’re starting games slow. As we get to the end, we start to hit stride and play really well. That’s the sign of a young team.”
But Chapel Hill’s keepers Aylee Whitesides (first half) and Maddie Mesaros (second half) kept a clean sheet for the Tigers.