Chapel Hill’s girls soccer team hopes to send its coach out on a championship note – if he’s going out, that is.
With a roster that returns pretty much everyone from a year ago, coach Ron Benson’s Tigers, 2-0 victors Thursday night against reigning 4A state champ Green Hope, have the makings of a team that can make a deeper playoff run than last year’s third round.
His players seem to think it’s his last season, but even he’s not sure.
“Maybe,” Benson said. “I’m thinking about retiring, but I haven’t signed the paper yet.”
The Tigers (4-0, 1-0 Big Eight 3A) 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. She’s left-footed so she kicked it as hard as she could and my face was in the way,” Dell said.
The ricochet knocked Dell clear off her cleats. Her teammates picked her up and informed her that she had scored.
After having some of her most brilliant plays had already taken place without a goal, Kimball scored just five minutes later.
She thought she had slotted in the goal from the left side of the pitch, but a Green Hope defender hustle to keep it off the line by a hair. Kimball had saw the play developing 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.”
Green Hope is still adjusting to a much different look. Only a few players from last year’s team remain, and Michael Hoy is in his first season as coach.
The midfield struggled to hold its shape at times while trying to defend Kimball and the like. But the Falcons (3-1-2, 1-0-1 Southwest Wake 4A) got their form together with about 20 minutes to go and forced far more shots on goal than they had previously to make it interesting.
But Chapel Hill’s keepers of Aylee Whitesides (first half) and Maddie Mesaros (second half) kept a clean sheet for the Tigers.
“We knew we were going to have a lot of good players this year and our trick is to get them to play together,” Benson said. “So far it’s been good. We’re real happy with the way they’ve been playing together. The chemistry has been real good.”