Cardinal Gibbons coach Tim Healy has been at the forefront of creating and organizing the Wake County Cup, now in its second year. The Crusaders hosted the tournament finals for the second straight year, but appeared in the title game for the first time Friday, topping two-time finalist Sanderson 5-0.
“I just remember last year I was just a little jealous that we were not out there. To me it was awesome that we had other teams out here and coaches that love being out here and it’s kind of cool to have friends and other schools out here, but to kind of win it at home meant a lot,” Healy said. “We don’t normally have that kind of crowd, but with it being a Friday night and no football and it being a Cup final, it means a lot more, and it’s something that the kids don’t usually get.”
The Crusaders gave their home crowd plenty to cheer for, firing off all five of their goals in the second half to run away with the tournament championship.
The Crusaders (10-0-1, 4-0 Big Eight) turned a nil-nil halftime score into a 5-0 decision, scoring twice early in the second half to quickly change the tone of the tournament finals match.
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Gibbons midfielder Kyle Rohner scored first in the 42nd minute, followed by back-to-back goals by forward Andrew Rabil in the 48th and 54th.
Cardinal Gibbons pressed the issue early, putting four shots on goal in the first half with two careening off the crossbar. The Crusaders kept Sanderson’s starting goalkeeper Walker Lozaw on his toes, forcing the senior to make stops on several playable crosses. Twice balls got past Lozaw in the final minutes of the first half, but the Spartans were able to clear before a Gibbons player could get a foot on the ball to keep the game scoreless heading into the break.
“We knew it was coming,” Rabil said. “We just wanted to keep up the intensity, put the pressure on them, force them into mistakes; then the goals would come, and they did. ... I don’t even know what happened. All of a sudden, it’s 4-0. It just kept coming. It was just a great team effort.”
Jack Donovan and Alex Paladino rounded out the scoring surge for the Crusaders.
When the teams came out for the second half, the Spartans made a change in the net, sending junior Bryson Condrey in to play keeper. The switch, Sanderson coach Todd Worley said, was not made on a whim.
“That decision was made last night, not today,” he said. “Bryson was our starting keeper on Wednesday and had a great game. We’re having goalkeeper issues and we’re having defensive issues. Until we get our defense straight, I don’t know who our keeper is. We’re giving up a lot of goals right now.”
The loss comes amid a slump for Sanderson (5-5-2, 0-3-1 Cap Eight) that has seen the Spartans lose four of its last five games. Sanderson tied Broughton 2-2 on Wednesday, and all four loses were one-goal decisions in which Sanderson has allowed multiple goals.
“We were fine throughout the game,” Worley said. “I thought our defense let us down for the first two goals, and then they got hot. Once they got the momentum going, they had three great shots. ... The guys are fighting with everything they have, but we’ve had a rash of injuries that have created some issue for us, but the guys keep playing through it, and even tonight outside of three great shots, it was a pretty tight game.”
Both teams return to conference play next week, as Sanderson continues to try to rebound and Gibbons looks to keep the momentum going with key league matches on the horizon. The Crusaders can check Wake County Cup title off their to-do list.
“The shooting our guys did in the second half, I haven’t even seen us do that in practice,” Healy said. “(Winning the tournament) accomplishes one of our goals, and it probably gives us a little boost of confidence because we haven’t had the toughest schedule in the past two weeks. Now getting ready for Chapel Hill in a week and a half, all of a sudden we’ve got a lot more confidence and it shows us we’re ready for those kind of games.”
Gavin Smith was in goal for the Crusaders in the shutout.
Apex and Millbrook tied 2-2 in the third-place game played at Gibbons earlier in the night.