With just about everything already decided in the PAC-6 soccer standings, East Chapel Hill bumped up its chances of a good berth in the upcoming N.C. High School Athletics Association playoffs by winning 1-0 Wednesday night at Durham Riverside in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Jeffrey Solis scored the game’s lone goal on a penalty kick with 13 minutes, 25 seconds left in the game.
Solis had drawn the kick when he was tripped from behind on a breakaway run into the penalty area. He slotted his shot cleanly, low and just inside the post to his right. Seconds later, Solis drew a yellow card for celebrating the goal, his fourth of the season, directly in front of the Riverside bench in a manner that was deemed taunting by the official.
East’s win boosted the Wildcats’ record to 12-5-3 overall, 8-3-1 in the PAC-6, while Riverside finished its regular season at 13-8-0, 6-6-0, and in fourth place in the PAC-6.
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“This was an important win,” East Chapel Hill coach Austin Collins said, noting his team had won six of its last seven games. “It locked up third place in the conference and it put us at 12-5-3. That’s a good record – only five losses in 20 games. I think we’ll be right around what we need for a home game in the playoffs.”
Wednesday’s win didn’t change the conference standings. Jordan (13-6-1, 11-1-0) already had the PAC-6 championship wrapped up before it shut out Hillside 9-0 on Monday in the Falcons’ last game of the season, and Cardinal Gibbons (14-2-3, 9-1-1) guaranteed its second-place finish when it downed East Chapel Hill 3-0 Monday.
Still, in a year when overall winning percentage will have more to do with the NCHSAA post-season seedings than will conference standings, both East and Riverside badly wanted a win Wednesday. They were neck-and-neck in the 4A standings before Wednesday, with winning percentages just eight-one-thousandths apart. After Wednesday, East’s winning percentage shot up to .708, among the top 25 best for 4A teams in the state, while Riverside’s dropped to .619.
Riverside coach Eric Long felt hopeful about the fact that the Pirates still were among the state’s top 50 4A teams in terms of winning percentage, and just about at No. 25 among eastern 4A teams. That should be good enough to find a slot in a field of 32 teams in the 4A East bracket, he said.
“We still have a good winning percentage,” Long said. “So, I think we’ll still get a wildcard. We’re banking on it.”