CHAPEL HILL Good and bad news from East Chapel Hill’s first-round win in the N.C. High School Athletics Association 4A soccer playoffs:
Good news — the Wildcats advanced with a 1-0 victory over a tough Millbrook team.
Bad news — that’s probably as easy a game East’s Wildcats are going to enjoy in this year’s NCHSAA tournament.
“Last year, we were lucky to start out the playoffs with some teams that maybe weren’t as good as we were, and we were able to do whatever we wanted,” East Chapel Hill coach Austin Collins said last week. “That’s not going to be the case this year.”
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Last year, East Chapel Hill began the 2014 playoffs with three wins against teams that were each one game above .500. It wasn’t until the fourth round that East faced a quality opponent — state finalist Panther Creek (23-1-1).
Millbrook (10-8-1) lost its last two matches of the reguar season and ended up in fifth place of the insanely difficult Cap-8 Conference. East Chapel Hill (14-2-1) was co-champion of the PAC-6.
East’s only goal Wednesday came with 2:22 left in the first half, after the second of back-to-back hard shots by East Chapel Hill’s Emma Daum bounced off the gloves of Millbrook’s goalkeeper. Wildcat midfielder Neely Holroyd, waiting fortuitously at the edge of the six-yard-box, banged in the rebound.
“While it was 0-0, we were the better team,” Collins said. “Once it got to 1-0, they were better, because we were sitting back a bit. That’s something we need to work on.”
In the second half, Millbrook forced three corner kicks and got two free kicks in its offensive third of the field, but East keeper Kayla Kern fended off Millbrook’s only three shots on-goal in the second half to help the Wildcats improve to 8-0 at home this year.
“Our defense was great,” Collins said. “We really didn’t give them a clear-cut chance at the goal.”
East’s reward was a second-round game against Raleigh Leesville Road (10-4-4), which has won three state titles since 2008 under the leadership of former Rainbow Soccer coach Paul Dinkenor.
That game was played too late for Sunday’s CHN. See www.nchsaa.org for results.