Chapel Hill seems to have picked up right where it left off in last fall’s soccer season.
Last year’s Tigers fielded a top-20 team that finished 20-6-1.
If Chapel Hill’s first two games of the 2013 season are any indication, the Tigers appear to be performing at that same level.
Chapel Hill defeated Jordan-Matthews 4-2 on Tuesday and blanked Cary Academy 4-0 Thursday in games in the annual Orange-Chatham Invitational.
“A lot of times in the early season we’re just trying to get people into the right positions,” veteran Chapel Hill head coach Ron Benson said. “This time we seem to be playing in midseason form instead of like the beginning of the season.”
Chapel Hill notoriously starts slow under Benson, who perennially schedules top-10 teams – usually from the 4A classification – for the 3A Tigers’ early nonconference matches. The result usually is a so-so record before conference play, but a team well prepared for the rigors of the NCHSAA playoffs.
Last year, for example, Chapel Hill started off 5-6 two weeks into the season, having played and lost to 4A playoff teams like Apex, Sanderson and New Hanover. That 2012 team got within a half-game of tying for the conference championship and went two rounds into the state playoffs.
This year, Chapel Hill lost 4-1 in its first scrimmage Aug. 13 against 2012 state 4A champion Green Hope, which is off to a 3-0 start and remains ranked No. 1 in North Carolina.
“That was more like a 2-1 game than 4-1,” Benson said. “We played pretty well against them and I felt good about that.”
CHHS also lost 4-3 in a scrimmage Aug. 15 against 4A Southern Lee, but by then the Tigers were already beginning to get into form for the regular season.
Last Tuesday, Chapel Hill defeated 2A power Jordan-Matthews, a program that went five rounds into the 2012 playoffs before losing 2-1 at state finalist Carrboro. Chandler Weedon, Alex Walker, John Walden and Conner Albrecht scored for CHHS against the appropriately named Jets.
Walker notched his second and third goals of the young season in Thursday’s 4-0 win against Cary Academy. He opened the scoring in the 15th minute, fed by a pass from Ben Fisher to just outside the six-yard box and sliding past the onrushing goalkeeper.
Walker assisted on an almost perfect play eight minutes later by splitting two Cary Academy players just past midfield and sending the ball to Will Sharpless on his right. Sharpless, wide-open, quickly lofted a long, arching shot from 23 yards out that sailed over the hand of the leaping goalie to just inside the far post for a 2-0 CHHS lead.
A penalty kick by Albrecht with 5:01 to play in the first half put Chapel Hill up 3-0, and the Tigers slammed the door shut on any potential Charger comeback with Walker’s second goal, scored almost point blank at the goal mouth off a rebound of a goalkeeper block with 29:14 left in the match.
Cary Academy (1-1), which shut out Burlington Williams 5-0 on Tuesday, and Chapel Hill each got to play only two matches in the annual Orange –Chatham Invitational due to rain Monday and Wednesday.
“It was definitely still worth it to come over here and play,” said Cary Academy coach Jeff Costa. “It’s nice to play the public schools. We don’t get to do that much, and the competition helps us prepare for the season.”