Chapel Hill High soccer coach Ron Benson always thought that if John Walden, Ben Fisher and Nate Hebert could find a way to connect in the corner, good things would happen.
As things turned out last week, it appears Benson has not won all his coaching honors for nothing.
Benson twice reconfigured his lineup last week, and twice Walden, Fisher and Hebert responded with what proved to be decisive goals in big wins for the Tigers.
The Tigers, ranked No. 2 in the Triangle by the News & Observer, won three times in five days, coming from behind Monday to win 2-1 at Cardinal Gibbons to take the lead in the Big Eight 3A, blitzed Northwood 5-1 Wednesday, and then downed East Chapel Hill 4-1 Friday. Chapel Hill has now won 11 straight this season.
It was a good week, Benson said Friday night. This was a really big win, and we played well. I am pleased with that.
Walden, Hebert and Fisher figured prominently in both the wins at Cardinal Gibbons (9-4-1) and against East Chapel Hill (5-4-2).
With Chapel Hill down 1-0 at halftime at Cardinal Gibbons, Benson moved Walden forward from his defensive center midfielder position and slid Chandler Weedon up into the vacated position.
Weedon tied it in the 55th minute off an assist from Fisher. In the 78th minute, Luke Ciocca chipped a ball to Walden, who chested it to Hebert, who slotted it for a 2-1 lead.
John played a pristine through ball to me, Hebert said. I kind of stumbled over it a little bit, but I got my composure back and I outside-footed it into the bottom corner.
Chapel Hill provided little drama in trouncing Northwood. Walden, Alex Walker, Daniel Ferreira, Weedon and Fisher each scored one goal as the Tigers improved to 5-0 in conference matches.
Walden scored Chapel Hills first two goals in the first 16 minutes against East Chapel Hill. Zach Lee answered with a goal for the Wildcats in the 21st minute, getting an assist from Michael Balog. Hebert and Paul Miller added insurance goals for Chapel Hill in the second half.
This was my first goal of the year, Miller said. Its a great feeling to get a goal in my final game against East as a senior.
East Chapel Hill out-shot the Tigers early, continually sending balls up the middle to a breaking Lee, which prompted Chapel Hill to move up Walden.
In the 10th minute, Chapel Hill forced a corner kick, which Fisher started short to Walden. Walden zig-zagged past one defender along the end line and flicked a shot off another defender, getting it in just inside the near post.
Coach always said that if Ben and I could get together in the corner, we could do good things, Walden said.
With four goals in three games, Walden pronounced it the best week ever.
Miller said the win against Gibbons, Chapel Hills first since 2009, was pivotal.
We pulled that one out in the end, and that gave us some confidence, Miller said. We knew East would be tough, too, because its a great rivalry. The last time we played three games in one week we lost the third one to New Hanover. This week turned out great.
It was bit tougher on Lee. He plays alongside Chapel Hills Luke Ciocca, Justus Heizer and Fisher on the TUSA 96 Gold club that reached the national championship finals last summer.
We have to practice this weekend, Lee said. Im sure theyll have to give me some grief.
Chapel Hill and East Chapel students and fans from both schools turned out in good numbers for the game Friday, bringing a more festive atmosphere than usual to the nonconference match. Many were dressed in jackets and ties. Before the game, Chapel Hill fans and JV players formed two lines for a tunnel of sorts. Smoke bombs were set off at the mouth and the Tigers starters ran through as they were introduced.
The upbeat tone of the game provided a perfect buildup for the introduction at halftime of members of the 1982 and 83 Chapel Hill soccer teams, who were celebrating a this weekend. The 82 team reached the state finals, and the 83 team was the first varsity team from the school to win a state soccer championship.