Rivalry reign in lacrosse
March 14, 2004

By HAYES PERMAR, The Herald-Sun. Originally published March 10, 2004

CHAPEL HILL -- Every time they meet, it's going to be the "cross-town rivalry." No matter what sport, players from Chapel Hill and East Chapel Hill talk about how badly they want to win this game.

But not every Chapel Hill-East Chapel Hill game is going to end up a thriller.

This one did.

East Chapel Hill outscored Chapel Hill 7-3 in the fourth quarter to force overtime, while the Tigers' Kevin O' Connor scored the game winner with 1:29 left in the first sudden-death period, giving Chapel Hill a 12-11 win Tuesday night.

It marks Chapel Hill's ninth straight win in the series, a streak O'Connor vowed to uphold a few years ago.

"I lost to East my freshman year," he said. "I never wanted to lose to them again. We really wanted to take it to them, but a win's a win."

O'Connor played a major role in the present, just like he's done in the rivalry's past. As a sophomore, he scored a walk-off winner in a second overtime against the Wildcats. He led all scorers Tuesday with four goals.

The Wildcats were fast out of the gate, with Cody Kelly and Adam Ball scoring a goal each in the game's first three minutes. But Chapel Hill scored the next seven goals, including a 5-0 run in the second quarter.

"That second quarter was probably the best quarter we've played all season," Chapel Hill coach Glenn Estacio said. "We really took it to them between the restraining lines. Our offense is where our strength is, and we made good decisions today."

Chapel Hill ran an effective isolation offense, working from behind the net to get favorable one-on-one match-ups.

"That's what we call our ball-possession offense," Estacio said. "We play with patience, and we have some athletes. If they can take their man, that's what we ask them to do."

The isolation led to O'Connor's first goal as he came down the middle and grabbed a pass from Graham Georges that he finished from close range. Later in the second quarter, Chet Corey did the work behind the net before shooting off the post. O'Connor picked up the weak-side rebound for another goal.

The Tigers' other main scoring source was East Chapel Hill's set of mistakes. Shane Nouri, Chris Ragazzo, and Georges all scored goals off the ride, although it was more a result of Wildcats errors than Tigers pressure.

"That's just a lack of concentration," East Chapel Hill coach Sam Carpenter said. "We catch and throw better than that. They applied just a little pressure, and we panicked."

The Wildcats regrouped and tied the game 10-10 with 2:55 to play in the fourth on a man-up goal. Kelly, from behind the net, hit Ball for his third goal of the game.

Chapel Hill answered with a man up goal--the Tigers went 2-for-3 with the man advantage -- on O'Connor's third goal before the Wildcats' Daniel Lawler tied it with his second score of the night.

In overtime, Corey got an open look but missed high, while East Chapel Hill turned it over on its next possession.

Chapel Hill's Jay Spear then moved the ball through the midfield and found Nouri, who hooked up with O'Connor for the winner.

"I had a one-on-one, and I knew I could beat him with speed," O'Connor said. "I started inside, went right, came back to the left and nobody came in. I had an open shot. I just wanted to end it."

O'Connor's face dodge and top-shelf goal gave the Tigers the rebound they were looking for after Saturday's loss to Charlotte Providence -- "It's a huge win for us," O'Connor said -- while the Wildcats will look to bounce back from a loss that, though emotional, still comes early in the season.

"I told them that this whole thing is a marathon, not a sprint," Carpenter said. "It'd be nice to get this one, but we'll move on."

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