After three big wins last week, Chapel Hill is alone in the driver’s seat of the race for the Big Eight Conference soccer crown.
Chapel Hill’s three conference wins, combined with Cardinal Gibbons’s surprising 5-0 loss to Orange, left the Tigers two games up on the Crusaders in the big Eight standings.
The key win came Monday, with Chapel Hill’s 4-2 victory at Cardinal Gibbons, which was then the No. 2 team among North Carolina’s 3A schools.
Monday’s win was Chapel Hill’s third straight over the Crusaders and its second straight on their home turf.
At Gibbons, the Tigers got two goals and an assist from Blake Johnson, while Duncan Davis supplied three assists. John Walden scored a first-half goal that put Chapel Hill up 2-1, but Gibbons answered 4 minutes into the second half. The Tigers’ Mateo Ortez provided what proved to be the game-winning goal in the 57th minute.
“Going over there and getting a win was really big,” Chapel Hill head coach Jason Curtis said. “Getting four goals, that says something to our kids. That’s a good start.”
Chapel Hill followed that with a tough 2-1 win Wednesday at Northwood and a 4-2 decision at Southern Durham. Those wins improved the Tigers’ records to 11-2-1 overall, 8-0-0 in conference.
“They are a heck of a team just a heck of a team,” said Northwood coach Bret Pedigo.
Walden scored both of Chapel Hill’s goals at Northwood, his second coming off an assist by Davis, who finished the week’s three games with six assists to his credit. Johnson scored his third and fourth goals of the week at Southern, where Kyle Cocowitch and Nick Hebert each scored off a Davis assist.
After Wednesday’s loss at Orange (6-8-0, 4-5-0), Gibbons (11-2-1, 6-2-0) was in second place in the Big Eight.
Chapel Hill dodged a Gibbonsesque post-big-game letdown at Northwood (4-6-1, 3-4-0), where the Chargers went up 1-0 with 36:03 left in regulation on a goal by J.R. Godwin. He split two defenders and fired a low, hard shot from about 20 yards out to just inside the far post.
“I was mad after that. Whenever an opponent scores, you want to score back,” Walden said. “ I took it upon myself to help the team get a goal.”
Going down 0-1 at Northwood provided Chapel Hill with an object lesson: the conference race is a marathon, not a sprint.
“Our captains talked about that at halftime,” Curtis said. “As they said, ‘Monday was Monday, and we need to get over that and get after it a little bit better.’”
Brett Svendson’s superb play in goal helped the Chargers keep Chapel Hill scoreless until the 48th minute, when a fired up Walden, left unmarked between the circles, stunned the Charger Stadium crowd with a hard shot from almost 35 yards out that sailed over the entire Northwood defense and high past Svendson’s outstretched hands into the net.
Walden followed that 30 seconds later with a shot bounced off the far post. Northwood was never able to clear the ball from its area, and 77 seconds after Chapel Hill’s first score, Davis fed a ball above the 6-yard-box and Walden one-timed it in for a 2-1 lead.
“It’s always like this at Northwood. They are always tough,” Curtis said. “Northwood played really hard, really well. They defended well, and their keeper played amazing.”
Chapel Hill had a 29-10 advantage in shots over Northwood, but Svendson made 14 saves, at least three of those on shots the Tigers got off from within 10 yards.
“We have a great keeper who can erase some of the mistakes that we make,” Pedigo said.
East to host Jordan
East Chapel Hill (6-3-1) will play for the first time in more than a week when it hosts conference co-leader Jordan (8-4-0) at 6:30 p.m. Monday. Both East and Jordan are undefeated so far in PAC-6 play.
The Wildcats follow that with a 6:30 p.m. home game Wednesday against third-place Riverside (6-4-1).
Jags continue streak
Carrboro won two more Mid-State Conference games by shutout last week– 9-0 Monday at Reidsville and 9-0 Wednesday against Bartlett Yancey.
The Jaguars improved to 12-2-1, 6-0-0 Mid-State, and extended their current unbeaten streak to 11 games. They’ve outscored their last four opponents 26-0.
Ranked No. 3 among the state’s 2A teams, Carrboro will play three road games this week: Monday at Burlington Cummings, Wednesday at Jordan Matthews, and Friday at Chapel Hill.
Wednesday’s match in Siler City features the Mid-State’s top two teams. “Los Jets” (9-4-2, 4-1-1) have won seven of their last eight, with the lone loss coming 2-0 Sept. 22 at Carrboro