RALEIGH — After average performances on the road to start the season, the Apex Cougars have changed their fortunes and become road warriors.
On Wednesday night, Apex (10-4-1, 8-2-1) extended its road winning streak to four with a 3-0 win over host Athens Drive (7-7-3, 3-7-1).
The Cougars started the season just 3-3-1 on the road, but the turnaround is a big reason why they’re still second in the Tri-9 Conference.
“At this point in the season, you want consistency,” Apex coach Kevin Todd said. “As we’re winding down, you want to have some momentum heading into the playoffs. Right now we have a good chance of making the playoffs, but you never want to just stumble in there.”
As for the home team, finding consistency has been a struggle lately.
Not only have the Jaguars lost six of their last seven, they have had games and practices canceled due to rain.
“We had a rough night,” Jaguars coach Travis Seese said. “We’ve actually had a really rough couple of weeks. But we can’t let the weather or anything else become an excuse for us. We need to come out and play better if we plan on fighting our way back into a playoff spot.”
Athens Drive controlled possession for much of the opening of the match, but a breakaway goal by Anthony Miracola put Apex on top early.
The senior crossed up two defenders and drove the ball just past the hands of Angel Vasquez in the 14th minute. But the Jaguars keeper was able to stop the bleeding as the Cougars had an onslaught of six shots in the five minutes following the goal, each of which Vasquez turned away.
Just before the end of the first half, Apex was threatening again, but defender Conor Gronbach made a great play, diving in front of the open net to stave off another Cougars scoring opportunity.
The Cougars struck again in the 32nd minute as Austin Brackfield scored on a cross through traffic from Collin Hardee to take a 2-0 lead into the half.
In the second half, Robert Smith had an opportunity at a one-timer from 20 feet out, he snuck the ball just inside the right crossbar in the 70th minute.
After pulling out four straight road wins, the Cougars can now look forward to playing four of their final five regular season games at home, including a showdown with Middle Creek to close out the season – a game that could decide the No. 2 seed in the conference.