Both Green Hope and Chapel Hill have decorated boys soccer histories and both will be playing schools from just east of Charlotte in Saturday’s N.C. High School Athletic Association boys soccer championships at N.C. State.
Chapel Hill (24-2) faces Marvin Ridge (23-3) at 2 p.m. The Tigers have one state title and are making their fifth appearance. Marvin Ridge is making its third appearance and is 2-0 in title games.
Green Hope (27-1) will play Porter Ridge (26-0-2) at 8 p.m. The Falcons have two state titles and are making their fifth appearance, and fourth in the last eight years. Porter Ridge is making its first.
FALCONS CALM ON THE BALL
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In the 4A East final on Tuesday, East Chapel Hill coach Austin Collins hoped to apply the same amount of pressure that had worked so well for four rounds to the tune of four shutouts. But the Falcons were unflappable and won 3-0.
“They looked like a college team playing, honestly,” Collins said. “We like to press and really make it tough on teams to pass the ball around, but when you do that and the team can still pass the ball around, it’s really tough.”
Green Hope (4.4 goals per game) has had five players – Jonah Murrane, Anthony Boswell, Camden Holbrook, Connor Munz and Jacob Sciandra – with double-digit goals, and all link up with one another in passing combinations that are hard to defend.
“If you’re sitting there hoping that you’re going to score a goal on a couple of opportunities, it’s a stressful game,” first-year Falcons coach David Corsbie said. “But when you’re sitting there and you know that you’re creating opportunities, and you know that they’re there ... I feel like when we get that goal, it almost equals two or three goals with how we play.”
This year’s Green Hope boys soccer team never outlined a state championship as a team goal, instead opting for the old-fashioned “one game at a time” approach. And now the next game is the state championship.
While Green Hope’s calm and quick-passing play on offense has been a major reason why the Falcons have won 18 straight, the defense hasn’t allowed a goal all postseason.
“We try not to play individually but play good collectively,” senior defender Zach Curtis said. “Especially in the playoffs, our wingers have gotten in and started the defensive pressure there and helped us defend as one.”
TIGERS STRONG IN THE BOX
Chapel Hill, which defeated Terry Sanford of Fayetteville 2-1 Tuesday at home to win the East, hasn’t lost to a fellow 3A team all year. The Tigers’ two losses were to Cardinal Gibbons in August and to East Chapel Hill in the second of two non-conference meetings with its crosstown rival.
Chapel Hill cruised through the first three rounds with a 17-1 scoring advantage, but the Tigers have had to demonstrate poise under pressure to reach their first state final since 2009 and a chance for their first state championship since 1983.
Terry Sanford had two players sent off in the final 10 minutes as the game got chippy.
“When they’re playing physical and coming hard at you, they want to get in your head,” senior Oliver Reuland said. “We have to stay composed and not retaliate after a tackle. I’m proud of my team for the way we played.”
The Tigers have a tall team, which helps on set pieces. Chapel Hill scored twice on corners against Terry Sanford.
Paul McLaughlin has 13 goals and Sam Linker has 18 to go with 13 assists.
“We’re a tall team so we’re dangerous on corners,” Reuland said.
Senior goalkeeper Aidan McCormick has seven shutouts.
“We have 12 seniors on this team,” Chapel Hill coach Jake Curtis said. “It’s a really good group.”