After a long offseason filled with mental reminders of last season’s devastating third round playoff loss against Lee County, many members of the Chapel Hill boys soccer squad couldn’t wait to take the field again on Wednesday as they began what they hope will be a redemptive season.
And even with a bit of expected early season rust, the Tigers showed why they can be just as talented, if not better, in 2016 as they won 3-1 against Asheboro.
Playing the possession game, Chapel Hill proved it could work well as a group, which was made evident by its passing, defensive organization and prowess on set pieces.
With that said, coach Jason Curtis’ side found itself tied with a pesky and athletic Asheboro team late in the second half.
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That changed when senior midfielder Paul McLaughlin poked in the go-ahead goal in the 68th minute after sophomore midfielder Cameron Kerr’s free kick was initially parried away.
Minutes later, the Tigers tacked on an insurance goal thanks to Ryan Shaifei’s successful penalty kick.
“That’s a good result for us,” Curtis said. “Both teams, first game out you’re just trying to figure out how to make the puzzles fit. But, good first match.”
Chapel Hill hit a bit of a wall offensively towards the end of the second half, but sophomore midfielder Tom Morioka got things going when he drew a foul just outside the 18-yard box, which would lead to McLaughlin’s go-ahead goal.
THEY SAID IT
“I think it’s fueling us this year. It’s giving us some motivation to go forward. We don’t want to go out like that again.” – Chapel Hill senior midfielder Ryan Shaifei on the Tigers’ 3-2 loss against Lee County in the third round of the 2015 N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs.
THREE TO KNOW
Sam Linker, Chapel Hill: A clear catalyst on offense, Linker played as an attacking midfielder and looked composed with the ball at his feet, while assisting on Chapel Hill’s first goal of the game.
Justin Mecham, Chapel Hill: Described by Curtis as “a rock”, the center back helped anchor Chapel Hill’s defense and also got involved on set pieces. Positioning near the back post, Mecham one-timed a curving service from Linker into the back of the net off of a short corner kick.
Cameron Kerr, Chapel Hill: After Linker picked up a yellow card near the end of the first half, the Tigers turned to Kerr for playmaking in the midfield. His pacey and on-target free kick led to McLaughlin’s goal and he later coerced a foul in the 18-yard box.
A trip to Raleigh awaits the Tigers as they face ex-conference foe Cardinal Gibbons on Friday.