CARY — A team statistician asked Green Hope senior Mackenzie Koeller an understandable postgame question: “Why aren’t you smiling?”
Koeller had just been a part of a gritty come-from-behind 15-13 Friday night overtime win against fellow girls’ lacrosse powerhouse Apex.
She had a simple reason.
“I’m ready to beat them again on Wednesday,” Koeller said.
The teams will play twice in less than a week, an anomaly created by a rescheduled rainout. Whatever happens Wednesday, it’ll be hard to match Friday’s dramatics between the two programs that have combined to win seven of the last eight state championships.
The visiting Cougars, ranked fourth in The News & Observer rankings, were up 13-11 on No. 2 Green Hope in the final minute thanks to Jessie DeLuca’s fifth goal with 47.2 seconds left.
The Falcons needed to win draws to pull it off, and San Diego State recruit Katherine Smith was ready for the pressure.
Katherine won the draw, then scored her third goal with 37.6 seconds left. She won the next one too, and Quincy Smith scored with just 5.0 seconds left to force overtime.
“Usually me and Maggie (Auslander) take the draws, but I have the ability to draw it to myself to where I can get the ball, and then all the other girls know what to do,” Katherine said.
Katherine Smith won nearly every draw in the two three-minute overtime periods, giving the Falcons (9-1, 7-0) full control.
It helped that Apex was down two players. Erin Cornell, who had three goals in the first half, had two yellow cards and the Cougars had to trim their lineup by another player after picking up a fourth team yellow card.
“When we were even, I thought that we definitely proved to be the better team,” Apex coach Sarah Fellows said. “You just never think to practice a situation when you’re two men down for so long. We had a hard time winning it back, but I thought they fought hard the whole time, so I can’t ask for anything more.”
Koeller scored on an assist from Lilly Stanley with just more than 1:20 left in the first overtime, then Stanley (three goals, three assists) assisted Koeller (two goals, one assist) for the game’s final score with 34.7 seconds left in the same period.
“Katherine and I have it worked out,” Koeller said. “She takes the draw and I’ve got her outlet. She draws it to herself and I’ll come out and get the ball and normally run it down and set up something on the attack.”
Apex scored the game’s first three goals, but Green Hope’s got on the board thanks to a Cougars mishap. A lose ball was knocked the net by an Apex defender following one of goalie Rose Redfoot’s 13 saves.
Apex (9-2, 7-1) led 6-5 at halftime.
The two will play 6 p.m. Wednesday at Apex in what will likely be the difference in an outright or co-Conference 2 title.
“Now we kind of know how Apex is going to play, they know how we play – it’s going to be a lot harder and more physical,” Katherine Smith said.
Mia Castagnero had two goals for Apex, while Anna Adcock, Kristen Maselli and Abbey Flynn each scored once. Beth Fellows had three assists.
The Falcons’ Kate Murphy (three goals) Maggie Auslander (one goal and two assists) and Avery Hidalgo (one assist) also got into the scoring act.
Blake: 919-460-2606; On Twitter: @JMBpreps