APEX — Apex boys’ lacrosse head coach John Hayden knew the Cougars second-round playoff game against visiting conference foe Middle Creek would be anything but easy.
That was why Hayden emphasized good ball movement and finishing at the net better against an opponent that the Cougars had edged by one and three goals earlier in the year.
On Tuesday Apex responded, scoring often and in spurts in a 14-6 victory over the Mustangs. The Cougars (17-2) will play at Conference 2 champ Cardinal Gibbons on Friday for the third time this year. Both Apex losses came to the Crusaders.
Middle Creek finished its season 10-7.
“We made a few more stops but it’s never easy against them,” Hayden said. “(Offensively) we didn’t do anything different today, we just finished better.”
Apex sophomore Brendan Farrell scored four times, while seniors Derek Sweet and Luke Sieber added three and two goals respectively. Each of Farrell’s goals was assisted by either Sieber or Sweet.
Sweet and Sieber have been playing together with Apex since they were freshmen, and were key players on the 2010 state finalist team. Now as seniors they are seeing things come full circle.
“We knew what we had to do, come out and possess the ball and get up early,” said Sweet. “Ross Whitehead was a senior when we were freshmen and he paved the way for us. Now we’re in that position and are trying to do the same for the younger players on this team.”
The pair scored the Cougars first two goals, helping Apex to a 2-1 lead after the first period. Junior goalkeeper Tyler Nesbitt posted nine of his 15 saves in the first quarter, and his stops seemed to take some of the energy out of the Mustang attackers.
Apex scored six times in the second quarter to take an 8-3 lead and control of the game.
“Apex has a great defense and it seemed we were just in a different gear than them,” said Middle Creek head coach Paul Robison, whose team defeated Wilmington Hoggard in the opening round. “They were swarming after the (groundballs) and they did a great job possessing the ball and finding the open guy.”
Graham Southwick scored three times for the Mustangs, while Jack Doetzer added a goal and an assist.