The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district has a chance to send all three boys soccer teams to Saturday’s N.C. High School Athletic Association state championships.
Green Hope (26-1) stands in the way of East Chapel Hill (16-5-3) in 4A when the two tangle on Tuesday night.
Chapel Hill (23-2) hosts Fayetteville’s Terry Sanford (19-3-1) in 3A and Carrboro (18-3-3) goes to Kill Devil Hills to play First Flight (19-0-2) in 2A.
East Chapel Hill is on a big run, having not allowed a single playoff goal despite being an 8-seed. After a 3-0 first-round win against West Johnston, the Wildcats won 6-0 against Hoke County, 3-0 at D.H. Conley and 1-0 at Wilmington’s Ashley.
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Green Hope, which has played in four state championships, is on a 17-match win streak. The Falcons, which beat New Hanover 4-0 on Saturday in the fourth round, were built for the hectic playoff schedule – adjusted after Hurricane Matthew forced an extension of the regular season – that fit the first four rounds in eight days.
“It helps we’re a deep team. We have a lot of talent. We could field two teams and play, and that makes a difference, but there’s some guys who aren’t getting subbed out at all,” Green Hope coach David Corsbie said.
Chapel Hill last played in the state championship in 2009, finishing runner-up. The Tigers’ only losses this season are to 4A Cardinal Gibbons and rival East Chapel Hill.
“It shows how resilient we are,” Chapel Hill senior Paul McLaughlin said. “We can come together for a good, hard-fought win.”
Chapel Hill defeated Southern Lee 1-0 on Saturday, ending a Cinderella run by the Cavaliers (14-7) despite a standout game by goalkeeper Colton Dutchess.
“Colton is one of the best keepers around,” Southern Lee coach Vincent Frye said. “Without him, they would have scored a lot more goals.”
No matter who wins between Carrboro and First Flight, it will be the fifth time in six years one of the two teams has reached the state final. Carrboro was runner-up in 2011 and 2012, and First Flight did the same in 2013 and 2014 (the last East champ to win the 2A boys soccer title was Cardinal Gibbons in 2008).
GIRLS TENNIS NOTES
Union Pines battles: Union Pines’ Charlotte Craven made a gutsy effort just to be on the court in Saturday’s state championship match, a 5-0 loss to Marvin Ridge, after two trips to the emergency room during the week.
“She’s had some pain ... but the doctors have never really identified what was wrong,” coach John Frye said. “The pain had subsided and she’s a real fighter.”
Union Pines will graduate four players from this year’s group, which had an emotional end of the season. With just a few weeks left in the regular season, assistant coach Chuck Frye (no relation) passed away unexpectedly.
“He was a dear, dear friend and just a super assistant,” John Frye said. “We really miss him.”
NCSSM’s staying power: Building a program at N.C. School of Science and Math, the 2A runner-up, is done differently due to its status as a two-year residential school, the only one of its kind in the NCHSAA. The academic rigor means the Unicorns don’t play as many dual matches as their fellow opponents. Only having players when they’re juniors and seniors works well for experience, but doubles teams must gel quickly.
“It’s a really unique experience starting your junior year with a whole new team of girls that you’ve never met before. At your home school, sometimes you’ve known these girls since you were in kindergarten,” said senior Grace Miller, who is from Jefferson. “It’s really unique and special because we get to form relationships even quicker.”
And while opponents like 2A champ Lake Norman Charter can build programs over time, NCSSM’s 10-year stretch of championship appearances has happened across five incoming classes (the number would be three for a four-year public high school).
“We saw these (Lake Norman Charter) girls as freshmen and we saw them as juniors and, three of them, we’ll see again next year as seniors,” NCSSM coach Richard McClenny said.
Rao’s win-win: NCSSM junior Adithi Rao was destined to play on Saturday no matter what. She was accepted into NCSSM after spending her first two years at Green Hope, which was playing on opposite courts at the Burlington Tennis Center, finishing runner-up in 4A
Raleigh Charter improves singles: Though Camryn McClure and senior Christina Lee clinched the 1A title in doubles, singles was where the Phoenix put it all together to win the 1A title.
“Our singles were so much stronger (than last year),” Lee said. “In the regular season we were all undefeated, all singles. We were more consistent players. I think mentally we were stronger this year.”
Raleigh Charter finished runner-up in two other state championships, last year and in 2013, when the Phoenix lost to Mount Airy.
“I think this is the strongest tennis team that we’ve ever had as far as ability, but by far this is the biggest gelled, close(-knit) team that we’ve ever had,” coach Jenn Furr said. “It just seemed to all fall in place with each other.”