APEX — Green Hope avenged one of the two losses it suffered last season with a 3-1 win at Apex Wednesday night.
Green Hope, No. 2 in the News & Observer rankings and No. 3 in 4A, used a counterattacking game plan to take down Apex, No. 1 in the N&O rankings.
Theyve got a style of play where they utilize their physical abilities incredibly well. They play those forwards in and those forwards are dangerously fast. But that left a lot of space for us to counter, said first-year Green Hope coach Michael Hoy.
After shifting to a 4-4-1-1 formation after a loss last week to Athens Drive, which also beat Green Hope last season, the Falcons (10-1, 5-1 Southwest Wake Athletic Conference) have six goals in two games. It has freed Zack Compton and MacLean Holbrook to be more creative.
Were both dangerous players, and we love pushing forward. So if either one of the midfielders or me got the ball in the middle, we like to push it up the middle, Holbrook said. It was a really good offensive game and a great team effort.
In the opening minutes, it seemed as if both teams were going to take turns peppering the net.
Apexs Tyler Sanderson hammered a rebound in the 4th minute to give the Cougars (10-1, 5-1) the lead. The initial curling shot by Brett Eckmeder was saved by goalkeeper Sam Bissett, who deflected it in front of Sanderson.
Two-time reigning 4A state champion Green Hope kept threatening Apex with counterattacks. They nearly scored in the 16th minute, but Compton was unable to settle a cross from Holbrook.
Compton made up for it in the 21st, making a direct run on goal and converting a half volley off a chip from Jake Wallin to tie the game 1-all. Green Hope was aggressive throughout, sending long passes over the top, behind Apexs advancing back line.
Our mentality changed after we lost (to Athens Drive) and then we got in here and we were all on the same page, Compton said.
Apex goalkeeper Brian Lewis came up with two big saves on a 26th-minute breakaway and a 31st-minute header to keep the score even. But the Falcons again sprung a players free by going over the top of Apexs defense. Holbrook received a headed pass from Compton and then rocketed a half volley in the 33rd to give Green Hope a 2-1 lead.
The lead lasted through halftime, and the first 27 minutes of the second half as Holbrook became a disruptive force in the midfield.
The Falcons put an exclamation point on the win in the 67th as Montana Crowders cross was headed down by Holbrook to Compton who scored.
The two rivals will meet again in the final week of the regular season in a game that could decide who wins the conference.
Ive never seen a high school soccer rivalry that is so healthy, said Hoy, coaching in his first Apex-Green Hope game in front of a few hundred fans. "The play on the field is fast and physical, but its never dirty."
Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps