Chapel Hill midfielder Duncan Tart was close enough to see the whites in the eyes of Orange goalie Tyson Wolter. With another Panther defender physically menacing him like a solid swarm of bees, Tart muscled the ball into the net.
“I felt myself with it in one hand because I had gotten checked, so it was all I could do to flick it in,” Tart said of that fourth quarter goal.
It was just that kind of a night for the wily junior. He stung the Panthers with a hat trick in the fourth quarter alone, and led all scorers with four goals as the No. 9 East seed Tigers cruised into the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-A/2-A/3-A state playoffs with a 13-7 win over host Orange, the No 4 seed.
The Tigers next will be on the road on Friday night to play at No. 2 Croatan, which beat No. 7 Northwood 14-10.
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“Four? I’ll take it,” said Tart, who thought he only scored three goals to go with one assist. But he was very clear about that goal from spitting distance to the net.
“We have a play called an invert where a midfielder takes it down behind the goal, and kind of plays the X-position like an attack does,” Tart said. “I always come around the right side. I saw the slide coming, I swam over him, and I found myself in the crease wide open. I just tried to put in in without going into the crease, and it worked out.”
He said the Tigers were happy to get past the county rival Panthers.
“Orange is always a big game. It’s a big, physical team. This definitely boosts our confidence going into the next round. We’re just trying to get where we were last year, maybe further,” Tart said.
“If it plays out well we could definitely get to the semis again, or maybe even the championship game,” Tart said. Carrboro bounced Chapel Hill out of last year’s Final Four with a 4-2 win.
Chapel Hill coach Brent Voelkel said Tart is a key component of the offensive pressure.
“He’s one of our main middies. He had a good game, and he did a really good job,” Voelkel said. And it was especially welcome in a high-stakes game against a tough opponent.
“The previous game with them was a barnburner. We won by a goal, and we knew it was going to be a physical game,” Voelkel said.
“I think where we really won the game was between the lines. We pushed the ball, we got it up. The defense played really well, and we were moving the ball well on offense, and that really helped us out to get ahead of them and secure the victory,” Voelkel said.
“They have a helluva goalie, and with the way the conditions were I kept telling my kids to mix up their shots and keep him guessing,” Voelkel said. “I think it worked. We moved the ball, and we were getting a lot of good shots inside, which was key because he’s one of the best goalies around.”
The Tigers' distribution of scoring kept Orange off base.
Senior attack Martin Mraz had a hat trick, his first ever.
Freshman attack Jack Grubbs also had a hat trick, which included perhaps the best goal of the night.
With 57 seconds remaining in the first half, Grubbs took the assist from midfielder T.J. Malloy. While nearly parallel to the post he unleashed a left-to-right shot with no margin for error, and the ball whistled through the ridiculously narrow gap between Wolter and the frame.