Waudby scores hat trick en route to Chargers’ shutout win over Orange

By BRENNAN DOHERTY, News + Record Correspondent
Posted 3/4/21

PITTSBORO — Not much has been normal throughout Burke Waudby’s senior year on the Northwood men’s soccer team.

The season has been delayed, shortened and full of …

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Waudby scores hat trick en route to Chargers’ shutout win over Orange

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Posted

PITTSBORO — Not much has been normal throughout Burke Waudby’s senior year on the Northwood men’s soccer team.

The season has been delayed, shortened and full of postponements.

The mud-soaked, divot-filled field he played on Wednesday night served as a reminder that there is a reason why soccer is not typically played in North Carolina winters, no less one of the rainiest on record locally.

But Waudby is grateful for the opportunity to play at all in a makeshift spring soccer campaign, and he took full advantage in Northwood’s recent 4-0 win over Orange, scoring a hat trick in the second-to-last home game of his career. The win was one Northwood (3W-2L-0T) simply needed to have to keep its playoff hopes alive, as the regular season approaches its match-filled final stretch.

“I’m just thankful for everything that we’re able to have this season,” Waudby said. “There are a lot of guys who still want to play. I think we just need to stay focused. This end stretch to the season is most important to us in our final goal of making the playoffs.”

Northwood’s conference, the Big Eight 3A, receives two automatic postseason berths, but East Chapel Hill and Chapel Hill occupy the top two spots in the league standings.

The Chargers could still earn a spot as a wild card, but they would most likely need to finish third in the Big Eight and hope their in-conference winning percentage compares well to other wild-card contenders throughout the state.

Northwood showed against Orange why there is optimism it could end the season on a flourish. In what was a comprehensive victory, the Chargers were consistently in advanced positions and aggressive with their attack, mostly composed at the back and lucky to have senior goalkeeper Aiden Bungay, who performed well when called upon.

“We were strong in the attack,” first-year head coach Kevin Forster said. “We did a really nice job finding gaps in the defense and really created a lot of goal-scoring opportunities.”

The first opportunity Northwood capitalized on came early, as senior Rafael Rocha opened up the scoring in the sixth minute. After tracking down a ball played down the left channel, Rocha cut inside and scored from a tight angle, whizzing a shot into the right side of the goal in a situation where many other players would have been tempted to simply play in a cross. Later on, there would be ample chances for Rocha to set up teammates, however, as he finished with two assists.

Not long after, Waudby’s goal-scoring spree commenced.

In a sequence that mostly mirrored Rocha’s opener but on the other side of the pitch, Waudby chased a ball down the right flank before dribbling into the box and firing away. Orange senior goalkeeper Jose Beltran-Reyes managed to get a hand on it, but Waudby’s shot still had enough power to reach the goal, doubling Northwood’s lead in the 14th minute.

“We just played some good possession in the back and they found Lucas (Beaulieu) for a long ball through the side,” Waudby said. “He split the defenders and I made an easy run to goal.”

Scoring opportunities were sparse for Orange, but the hard-working Panthers did manufacture a few nerve-racking moments for Northwood via set pieces and counterattacks.

One of Orange’s best chances of the evening came in the 28th minute. After Northwood only partially cleared a corner kick, the Panthers’ Jasper Tyll hit a well-driven effort that forced Northwood’s Bungay to get low, parrying the ball away before Orange scuffed a chance at a rebound.

“Aiden stepped up really big for us and made some really huge saves,” Forster, a former goalkeeper himself, said, “and he’s been doing that all year long.”

The second half brought more of the same for Northwood, which scored its third goal less than a minute after the break, as Waudby timed a run past the Orange backline well and received a chip from Rocha. One-on-one with the goalkeeper, Waudby calmly slotted his effort to the right and into the net.

Twelve minutes later, Waudby completed his hat trick, scoring a goal that was largely a duplicate of his second. Well-positioned and remaining onside, he snuck past the Panthers’ center backs and didn’t miss from point-blank range.

“He’s got a nose for the goal, that’s for sure,” Forster said of Waudby, who now has five goals in as many games.

Following the game, Forster told his team to enjoy the win, but to be ready to turn the page quickly. That message is out of necessity, as the Chargers’ travel to face Southern Durham today, March 4.

Not far behind are the two final games of the season, a road match at East Chapel Hill on Tuesday and the regular-season finale on March 11 against Vance County.

Regardless of how the year ends, Forster remains impressed by the leadership he’s seen from his most experienced players during his first year as coach.

“I can’t say enough about the character and hard work of our seniors,” Forster said. “They kind of set the mood for the team. We talk about having a F.A.C.E., and that includes focus, attitude, excellent communication and enthusiasm for the game. Our guys have really taken that on.”

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