Chapel Hill struck first in the NCHSAA 1A/2A/3A boys lacrosse championships, but then Weddington turned to its star brother tandem to secure the Warriors’ third straight state title with a 16-5 win.
Weddington coach Britton Short, who took over the team last season, said Chapel Hill’s first goal was a shock just 1:11 into the first quarter but his team knew what to do with all of the experience gained from a core group of players who have accumulated a 54-4 record.
“They came down and got a quick one on us,” he said. “I told everyone, ‘Hey, it’s OK. We’ve been here and we’re fine now.’ We knew they’d come out amped up and really fired up and ready to go. We knew we needed to be smart with our energy and not come out hot and fizzle out.”
That’s when the Shipley brothers made it happen.
Just over a minute and a half later, all-American James Shipley tied the score at one. At the 7:24 mark, Shipley scored unassisted again to give Weddington a 2-1 lead they would not surrender.
By the time sophomore Will Shipley scored at the 5-minute mark of the first quarter, the floodgates had already opened for Weddington’s offense, which would go on to outshoot Chapel Hill 38-28 on the night.
By halftime, James Shipley and Will Shipley would have six goals combined and the brothers had the Warriors rolling toward their third straight title as Weddington turned a 1-0 deficit into a 10-1 lead entering halftime.
“Both of those do get a lot of press, but they deserve all of it,” Short said. “Those kids are so humble, but they’re something special. They know how to carry a team for sure. When we need something to happen, they’re the ones who want the ball and the ones who at least get the ball rolling. They did for us again on Friday night, but they’re just so consistent all the time.”
Eamon Murphy, Chase Jones, Jarrett Papke and Anthony Todaro all added first half goals for the Warriors.
James Shipley would add a goal and three assists in the second half to earn Most Outstanding Player honors. The senior standout has also been named the Most Outstanding Player in two Warrior football championships, including this fall.
“We’re lucky to have those guys,” Short said. “But it’s all of the guys, and especially this senior class. It was so important for me as a coach to have them buy into what I wanted to do as a coach. They bought in as juniors and that’s a big deal. They really accepted my philosophy that everyone matters the same. It doesn’t matter if you’re James Shipley, Eamon Murphy or Tanner Cox or a freshman playing JV because everyone matters. Those older guys all understood that and did a great job leading.
“When they buy in and you get the stamp of approval from those guys then everyone follows suit and say, ‘OK, we’re going to roll with these guys.’”
James Shipley, Murphy and Ryan Goldstein were key attackers and along with faceoff specialist Whitner Litton, Cox, Papke and Jones, the core senior group has all meant a great deal to the success the Warriors have enjoyed over the past three seasons. Short said the cupboard is far from bare.
On offense, Todaro, Will Shipley and Will McKeehan will be among the stars coming back, but Short said a great deal of this year’s success comes from the emergence of goalkeeper Andrew Miller.
Miller made 20 saves in a win over Charlotte Catholic earlier this season and made a few key stops late in the 9-8 regional final win over Marvin Ridge.
“Andrew Miller I think was the biggest surprise to everyone outside of us,” Short said. “I think people figured we’d take a big step down at goalie, but we didn’t. Andrew played his tail off all year for us. He was super motivated and wanted to prove some people wrong about what he could do in the goal. Obviously the defense in front of him helped him, but he single-handedly won us some games with really big saves.
“We’re losing a bunch of people, but I’m really excited for next year. I think people are going to think we’re really down, but I’m excited to show some people the kids we have coming up that didn’t get to play a ton this year.”
But for now, Short said he’ll take some time to enjoy this win.
“I’m proud of them and all the work they put in,” he said. “I can’t ask any more . They’ve done what any coach has asked of them since they’ve been in high school. I was so happy to send the seniors out that way because they earned everything they received. They earned it all.”