Co-conference champions Apex and Middle Creek enter this season with different sources of motivation.
For Apex, it’s about getting back to the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A title game, where it fell just short last year.
For the Mustangs, it’s about making sure last year’s abrupt first-round end doesn’t happen again.
Apex (19-3, 15-1): The Cougars relied heavily on its senior class, but the program always has others who are ready to step into the limelight. Senior Chandler Besser (32 goals, 46 assists) was the team’s leading points scorer.
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Jack Hayden (45 goals, 28 assists) and Brendan Farrell (41 goals, 10 assists) ensure Apex will still have a potent offense, while senior Joey Copeland brings toughness to the defense.
Middle Creek (16-2, 15-1): The Mustangs bring back four seniors from the all-conference team, led by goalie Nick Arcuri. Jack Doetzer (37 goals, 14 assists), Dylan Bryan (14 goals, 13 assists), Jack Diebolt and Jared Medwar (26 goals, 11 assists) give the team valuable experience.
Middle Creek’s two losses last year came by one goal each.
Athens Drive (12-5, 12-4): Faceoff specialist junior Peyton Smith is back for the Jaguars along with seniors Conor Gronbach (38 goals, 19 assists), Brock Martin (28 goals, 14 assists) and Jackson Wetherby.
Green Hope (13-8, 9-7): The Falcons caught fire late last year, winning three playoff games before bowing out in the regional semifinals to Apex, 11-9.
A strong nucleus of players return, starting with Nolan Paussa (56 goals, 23 assists), Harrison Wynne (42 goals, 36 assists), Tucker Burkinshaw (25 goals, 24 assists) and goalie Conor Ryan
Holly Springs (9-9, 8-8): The Golden Hawks had a young team last season – with 13 freshmen and sophomores. They return Justin Boone, Davis Ferguson and Scott Johnson, among others.
Panther Creek (9-11, 7-9): Dillon May and Parker Williams return to a Catamounts team that won two playoff games last year.
Cary (3-14, 3-13): Ethan Lewis is among the Imps’ returning players.
Pinecrest (3-13, 3-13): The Patriots from Southern Pines – SWAC members only in boys and girls lacrosse – ended the year by winning two of three and lost four other games by four points or less.
Pinecrest has good attackers in John Schlaff and Thomas Dean as well as Zack Fradenburgh.
Fuquay-Varina (0-16, 0-16): With the first year of varsity play in the books, the Bengals are hoping to build on last season’s late-year improvement where it cut down considerably on goals allowed.