The Chapel Hill women’s soccer team scored a pair of second half goals, capturing its first-ever state title with a 2-1 win over West Regional champ and No. 6 seed Weddington in Saturday’s North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3A title match at NC State University.
The No. 9 seeded Tigers (23-1 with a lone loss to Cardinal Gibbons which they avenged in the playoffs) shook off a poor first half and overcame a rare deficit, ensuring that coach Ron Benson would retire a winner after three decades with the program.
It didn’t come easily, as Megan Dell took a crisp pass from teammate Sofie Nielsen and knocked a 17-yard shot into the center of the goal with just two minutes remaining for the winning tally.
Not surprisingly, North Carolina-bound star forward Alex Kimball played a key role in the win, breaking loose from a defender to set up Mia Spencer who drilled a low shot underneath a sprawling Warriors goalie Taylor Schuster, knotting the score at 1-1 at 26:27 of the second half.
Benson compares Kimball to Michael Jordan for her array of talents and ability to turn a game around, which the Tigers needed after a first half in which they appeared to be in a funk of sorts. Weddington, to its credit, also did a terrific job of bottling up Kimball and thwarting the Tigers attack.
“We knew we were a good team, even though we didn’t play well in the first half,” said Benson, whose team trailed 1-0 on Chandler Arrowood’s 40-foot shot that bounded over Tigers keeper Aylee Whiteside’s head and into the goal. “But we came out refreshed in the second half and played better.”
Did they ever, often forcing the Warriors back on their heels and creating frustration that manifested itself in three yellow cards being handed out to the Charlotte-area squad that finished the season 20-3-1.
The classy Benson, 73, absorbed the hugs of so many well-wishers following the exhausting battle between two superb programs.
The winner, appropriately enough, was able to go out a champion.
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