As the final seconds ticked down in the state 3A/2A/1A boys lacrosse championship match between Chapel Hill and Matthews Weddington, Tigers fans broke out in a chant.
“CHAPEL HILL! CHAPEL HILL! CHAPEL HILL!”
“We heard it, of course,” senior Ben Gleiter said. “They (Tigers fans) traveled with us all year; much better than Weddington. I’m really proud of that.”
Chapel Hill’s 16-5 loss to state power Matthews Weddington 16-5 on Friday night at Wake Med’s Soccer Park in Cary didn’t matter so much to the players and fans who were celebrating the program’s turnaround season.
Last season, the Tigers went 5-11. This season, they made it to made it to the state title game and finished 16-4.
Weddington (16-1), the two-time state champion, entered the match a heavy favorite. The school near Charlotte finished its year without a loss to a North Carolina opponent. Its only loss this season was to Dublin (Ohio) Coffman in an early-season tournament.
In Friday’s game, Gleiter showed agressiveness as Chapel Hill took an early lead.He took the ball on a sprint outside the right post and scored just 1:34 seconds into the match for a 1-0 lead.
“We came in confident,” he said. “We were hyped on the bus. What else do you do expect? It’s a state championship game. You can’t beat that.”
Weddington’s more talented and deeper roster responded to Gleister’s early score with 10 unanswered goals for a 10-1 halftime lead.
Weddington senior James Shipley, who was named the MVP after finishing with four goals and three assists, quickly regained the lead with back-to-back goals at the 9:13 and 7:24 marks. Sophomore Will Shipley added three goals, all in the first half.
Chapel Hill avoided the 12-run mercy rule as its defense rallied around senior goalie Jonathan Crabill as he recorded some impressive saves.
“That was not a strategic move,” Chapel Hill coach Jacob Manning said. “That was giving a senior his time. We knew he could play at this level.”
In the two middle quarters, Weddington outscored the Tigers 3-2. In addition to Grubbs and Gleiter, senior Austin Cicale and sophomore Braxton West scored goals.
The championship appearance was the first for Chapel Hill since the NCHSAA sanctioned lacrosse.
“We were an underdog a lot this season after last year’s record, but we fought through adversity,” junior Jack Grubbs. “We didn’t make the playoffs last year and we used that as motivation to propel us.”