Brent Voelkel didn’t view Chapel Hill’s first game against Cardinal Gibbons as a game as much as a midterm exam.
It was the last game before spring break against the No. 1 team in the state, one that had scored in double digits in seven of its first eight games.
The midterm grade? Well, grades are weighted more on finals, anyway.
The Crusaders (9-0) easily had their way with the Tigers (5-2), running away with a 12-1 victory Thursday night at Culton-Peerman Stadium. After leading 3-1 at halftime, CGHS put the game away with four goals in the opening 3:45 of the second half. Hunter Van Horn, Brian Zarzour, and Robbie Lavelle each scored two goals for the Crusaders.
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Four Gibbons players finished with three points on a balanced score sheet.
Chapel Hill’s only tally of the night came when Peter Norwood whipped a 35-foot overhead shot past Crusaders goalie Kevin McKendry, who finished with 9 saves. Cardinal Gibbons outshot the Tigers 35-22. Chapel Hill goalkeeper Andres Holland finished an active night with 10 saves.
“That’s as good a team as there is in the state of North Carolina,” said Voelkel. “I think we’re going to be fine defensively. I think we have to step it up on offense and do a lot more to be effective. Only scoring one goal isn’t going to win many games.”
On a night barely above freezing, the respective offenses opened as cold as the weather. Gibbons scored on just 2 of its first 13 shots, and Norwood’s tally with 3:26 remaining in the first half sawed the Crusaders lead to 2-1.
It wasn’t that the Tigers lacked for chances or possessions, it was just the CGHS defense proved to be tougher than a two-dollar steak.
“They’re deep,” said Voelkel. “We hung tough in the first half, but we were stagnant on offense, and we really didn’t test their goalie as much as I wanted to. It seemed they wanted the ball more than us.”
Gibbons earned 12 of 17 faceoffs, thanks to the return of midfielder Stephen Albribght, who made his season debut after suffering a sprained ankle in a scrimmage game against Apex in February.
Thursday was the first time Chapel Hill went up against a ranked opponent this season. The Tigers now face the task of playing six consecutive games on the road upon resumption of the season on April 7 against Heritage in Wake Forest. Also ahead: two games against archrival East Chapel Hill on consecutive Thursdays in April.
In other words, there’s plenty of questions for Chapel Hill to answer before the final exam is done.
“We’re going to have to learn from this,” said Voelkel. “We have a couple of guys out right now, and hopefully we’ll see these guys later on down the line. We haven’t played a lot of games, and we’ll see how we do later on this season.”