Considered by many to be the two best high school field hockey teams in North Carolina, undefeated Chapel Hill and defending state champion East Chapel Hill showed again just how razor thin is the difference between the two old rivals. For the second time this season, they took a match to sudden death before Chapel Hill pulled out a one-goal victory.
Chapel Hill sophomore Christina Valentin tipped in the winning goal with 4:30 left on the overtime clock Tuesday night, redirecting a shot by classmate Anna Blythe, low along the ground past East’s goalkeeper for a 2-1 win.
“I felt I was in the right position,” Valentin said. “I saw the ball coming, so I was just getting low and getting ready to score that goal — and I did.”
Chapel Hill (10-0) trailed for just the second time this season after East ninth-grader Leah Hurwitz got a ball almost point blank at the goal mouth and slid it low past goalkeeper Ryann Brinkman to the opposite post for a 1-0 Wildcat lead with 9:33 left in the first half.
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The Tigers out-shot East 6-1 in the second half, but the Wildcats’ one-goal lead held up until Blythe scored on a rebound with 7:29 left in regulation. Julia Grant triggered the play by centering the ball toward the goal, where Alleigh Kempf tried a shot that East goalkeeper Lydia Treml deflected off her foot.
On a muggy, warm night featuring strong defense by both teams, Brinkman finished with six saves and Treml five.
Winners of eight straight state titles and 12 overall, East Chapel Hill (8-3) had won five of its six matches since a 1-0 loss Sept. 7 at Chapel Hill, including a nice 3-1 win at Cardinal Gibbons on Sept. 21. But the Wildcats haven’t played since a 9-0 win last Thursday against Mt. Tabor.
East never got a good look at the goal in overtime, as the Tigers repeatedly thwarted East’s attempts to clear the ball from its half.
“I think we got a little tired,” East Chapel Hill coach Susan Taylor Little said as her players headed toward their locker room. “We had talked to the girls at halftime and during the time-outs that we need to focus on running to every ball and giving effort.”
Chapel Hill has outscored opponents 36-3 so far this season.
“I think a little we let up a bit when they scored, but we stayed tough and played tough defense after that,” said Chapel Hill coach Anna Long. “We became a lot more defensive after that goal.”
Long, a Chapel Hill alumnae whose sister, Isabel Long, starts for East Chapel Hill, said she probably felt the weight of East’s current string of eight championships more than her players. East indirectly referenced the streak at halftime with introductions of two alums: all-American and two-time U.S. Olympian Michelle Kasold, and former all-state player Marissa Creatore, who plays this year for No. 2-ranked North Carolina and was present Tuesday to see her sister Maddie play for East.
“Our players showed so much heart, coming back after being down a goal with 7 minutes to play,” Long said. “They showed a lot of fight. I can’t coach that. I’m so proud of them for staying in it mentally and then finishing at the end, when it really counted.”