Etcetera: Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools dominate in field hockey

ewarnock@newsobserver.comNovember 8, 2013 

Any notion of balance North Carolina high school field hockey was blown away this weekend with the appearance of all three Chapel Hill-Carrboro city high schools in the state’s final four.

East Chapel Hill was trying for its 10th North Carolina Field Hockey Association championship this weekend, defeating Charlotte Catholic 2-1 in overtime in the semifinals in Lewisville. Two-time champion Chapel Hill fell 3-1 to Carrboro in the other semifinal, marking the first time those two have met that late in the NCFHA tournament.

Advancing to the championship final for a sixth straight year, East Chapel Hill was scheduled to play Carrboro on Saturday afternoon at Forysth Country day School.

“It’s wonderful that we’re all in,” Chapel Hill head coach Wendy Bennett said on the eve of the semifinals. “It says a lot about our sport and what we’re doing here.”

East Chapel Hill head coach Susan Taylor, who has both played on and coached Wildcat state champions, agrees that the CHCCS system is at the heart of North Carolina field hockey.

“It’s awesome that all three schools are in the semifinals,” Taylor said.

While Carrboro is a relative newcomer to the final four, Chapel Hill and East Chapel Hill have ruled the NCFHA tournament for more than a decade.

Heading into this weekend, Winston-Salem’s R.J. Reynolds was the only team outside of Chapel Hill to win a NCFHA championship; they nabbed the title in 2006.

More than once, Chapel Hill and East have met in the state final and gone to overtime to decide the outcome. In fact, of East Chapel Hill’s first nine state titles, last year’s 3-0 victory over Reynolds was the only time the Wildcats won a state final by more than one goal.

The closeness of the championship games belies how well CHCCS teams have controlled the tournament.

For years, the NCFHA final was held in Chapel Hill, which offered UNC’s Francis Henry Stadium as an almost perfect venue.

That just cemented the relationship between the local schools and the NCAA championship program at Carolina. At one point, UNC had five local players on its roster – Xan Funk, Casey Burns and Colleen Murphy of CHHS, and Wildcats Liz Morris and Heather Kendall (coached at East by former Carolina player Holly Huff Bruland).

The coziness of Chapel Hill began to wear on the local school’s western rivals, and they pushed to have the NCFHA finals moved to the Triad, where both Greensboro Day School and Wake Forest University have served as hosts.

The Reynolds title in 2006 was sandwiched between Chapel Hill championships.

That three-year span, 2005-07, made for the longest interregnum East Chapel Hill field hockey endured without a state title. Beginning in 2008, East Chapel Hill went on to claim five straight championships.

Little wonder, then, that the East Chapel Hill players recognize everyone in the state has been gunning for them for years.

“I think the players went into the playoff games this year thinking everyone is out to get us,” Coach Taylor said.

And, that, she said, might have been a good thing. “They played some of their very best field hockey in those games.”

—Saturday’s N.C. Field Hockey Association championship game was played too late for today’s edition of the Chapel Hill News. Go online to www.chapelhillnews.com for a full report.

Warnock: 919-932-8743

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