No. 4 Chapel Hill overcame an early second half deficit against No. 13 Union Pines on Friday night thanks to four goals from freshman Isabel Leinenweber, eventually racing by the Vikings by a score of 5-2 in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A girls soccer state playoffs.
From the outset, it seemed like the Tigers (16-2-2) were going to control the pace of play. Chapel Hill spent a large amount of time in the attacking third in the opening five minutes, sending in ball after ball into the Union Pines (17-9) box.
The Tigers finally broke through in the 8th minute, as a nifty give-and-go allowed freshman forward Alex Kerr to find room on the right side of the box. She crossed the ball to the left, where Leinenweber put the ball past the keeper.
Just over a minute later, Union Pines answered, as Ashlee Speck sent a long cross over the top of the defense to Alexa Coble, who headed the ball in to knot the score at 1-1.
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For the last 30 minutes of the first half and the first few of the second, Chapel Hill went back to controlling the game, but couldn’t take the lead.
Then, in the 45th minute, Union Pines scored off of a free kick to go up 2-1. The Tigers could have panicked, but instead the team – led by their two freshmen forwards – refocused.
“You just had to say we had time,” Kerr said. “We had the mindset of, ‘We can be in this still.’”
Six minutes after the Vikings took the lead, Chapel Hill tied it back up after Leinenweber scored from 30 yards out over the keeper’s head. Another six after that, she received a cross and volleyed one home to make it 3-2.
Kerr and Leinenweber combined for two more over the next six and a half minutes to put the score at 5-2, where it remained for the rest of the game.
Just like they had all season, the pair led the way for the Tigers on offense.
“It's been a great blend,” Chapel Hill coach Jason Curtis said. “The seniors keep composure in the midfield and serve those freshmen going forward … It's a lot of fun.”
Despite the wide margin of victory, Kerr and Leinenweber saw this game as a sign of things to come. As the team advances throughout the playoffs, the competition will only get stiffer, and they hope that the game against Union Pines prepares them for that.
“We’ve learned from this that, even when we go down 2-1 we can still come back,” Leinenweber said. In our season, we didn't have a lot of really competitive teams, and so this was a wake-up call that we need to play hard to the end."