Published: Apr 29, 2012 11:19 AM
Modified: Apr 29, 2012 12:22 PM
DURHAM - Hanna Gardner has tried on several looks this spring for the East Chapel Hill soccer team.
Designated as a midfielder in the Wildcats’ configuration, she often finds herself up front, helping to organize chances or scoring herself. Her speed and ball-control skills suit a possible role as a defender when she heads next fall to the University of North Carolina.
Last Thursday, she found herself donning a fluorescent green pull-over worn in warm-ups, using it as an improvised goalie’s jersey when she was drafted into duty by coach Mark Kadlecik as a keeper after East starter Blakeney Blair collided with an opponent.
"When I said to her tonight, ’Hannah you got to go in,’ and I love this about her, she says, ’Good, I don’t care. Fine.’ It just shows her determination," Kadlecik said. "She really wanted to win this ballgame tonight, and it really showed in her play."
It also exemplified East Chapel Hill’s play this year. Still young, sometimes disorganized and often banged up, the Wildcats keep finding a way to win.
With just two seniors on their team — Gardner and defender Katy Pugliese — the Wildcats (11-5-3, 7-0-1 conference) won their seventh PAC-6 title last week with a 3-0 win Thursday night at Durham Jordan.
Sophomores Riley Foster and Lauren Douglass and junior Abby Underwood supplied the goals, with assists from ninth-grader Emma Daum, Gardner and junior Erica Thompson.
As aggressive as they are young, the Wildcats spent most of the game trying to fore-check the ball in Jordan’s defensive third, pinning the Falcons on their own turf. Jordan had the speed in back to deflect all of the ’Cats long runs into the box, but they couldn’t keep track of every East player zig-zagging across the goal face.
"We have some athletic kids up top, so we tried to press their backs," East coach Mark Kadlecik said. "It could be a little ugly. But, as you could see, when you’ve got somebody breathing down your neck, it can be effective."
"They capitalized a lot on second chances and playing the back post," Jordan coach Sarah Kaneko said. "Our players weren’t anticipating where the other girl was going to go in the box."
Jordan had several chances early, including a shot off the post by Millicent Bliven, but "just could not finish," said Kaneko.
East has never lost a conference championship, and a 2-1 match last spring at Jordan was East’s first and only defeat ever in a PAC-6 game. The Wildcats relished paying the Falcons back by ruining their "senior night" Thursday.
"Losing a ton of seniors over the last two years, we aren’t looked upon as the top team that we’ve been for years, and we need to prove ourselves again and again each year," Gardner said. "I think we’ve done that."
With a conference game left to go Wednesday with Person, East Chapel Hill locked up the PAC-6’s top seed in the upcoming state playoffs with the ’Cats win at Jordan. The Falcons (9-6-2, 6-2-1 PAC) go to Riverside (8-5-2, 6-2-0 PAC) on Thursday for a match that will decide the conference ’s No. 2 seed in the NCHSAA tournament.