With all-conference midfielder Maggie Auslander sporting a cast on her forearm, undefeated Green Hope had to draw on its younger players to fight off a nine-goal rally by East Chapel Hill and take a 17-14 win in the N.C. High School Athletic Association's girls lacrosse semifinals.
Green Hope sophomore Katherine Smith stepped up to score six goals Tuesday night — including one with 1.1 second to play. Campbell Stanley scored five times for Green Hope (19-0).
Paced by junior Sydney Holman's seven goals, East Chapel Hill (11-6) scored more points on Green Hope than any other team this season, but it wasn't enough to keep the Falcons from advancing to Saturday's state championship game in their hometown.
Green Hope will play either Charlotte Catholic (18-1) or Waxhaw Marvin Ridge (17-2) at 11 a.m. Saturday in the NCHSAA championship game at WakeMed Park in Cary.
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Auslander, who fractured a bone in her left forearm about two months ago, still managed to get three goals against East Chapel Hill. Two of her goals and an assist came just 45 seconds apart to key the Falcons' initial 9-0 run.
"We've consistently started strong," Green Hope head coach Abigail Mead said, noting the Falcons took a 9-1 lead five days before in an NCHSAA quarterfinal match at Wilmington Hoggard. "We're trying to teach that you have to maintain that level for the entire 50 minutes."
Getting two goals apiece from Holman and ninth-grader Elizabeth Jenson, plus one from junior Allison Morsberger, East Chapel Hill outscored Green Hope 5-1 over the last 11:10 of the first half.
"This should have been the state championship game," Morsberger said. " We played with a lot of heart the entire game and made a good comeback. At the end of the day, it just wasn't enough."
The Wildcats controlled the first five draws of the second half and scored off each. Holman scored twice in the first minute after halftime and junior Cassie Watters scored three straight goals to tie the match at 10-10 with 18:44 to play.
"That's the first time we've had a lead like that and had someone come back that aggressively," Mead said. "Our team didn't really know how to respond."
Smith stepped into the center ring to help the Falcons control the next three draws. In a span of 4:59, Smith scored three goals and Auslander scored for the last time to make the lead 14-10.
"Katherine Smith was taking and winning our draws when we need some goals," Mead said. "I was impressed with how a sophomore stepped up in that situation."
The Wildcats never got closer in the game's final 13:04 than 16-14 after three more goals by Holman and one from Katyshea Cullen.
Green Hope took just one shot in the last 6:05 of play and relied on its solid defense and midfield to maintain possession. Falcon goalkeeper MaryCate Kapopoulos made seven saves, but only had to face two shots on-goal in the game’s final five minutes.