Cardinal Gibbons’ girls lacrosse team overcame an injury to its starting goalie and Apex’s early second-half scoring barrage to pull out a 17-16 victory in the fourth round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs Friday on the Crusaders’ field.
Gibbons senior goalie Morgan Sinclair, whose save in the final seconds of a regular-season win over Apex preserved a 15-14 victory, went down with a knee injury just eight minutes into the first half. Backup goalies are a premium in what is still relatively new high school sport, but Sinclair says Gibbons freshman goalie Gabby Young will eventually be better than her.
“She’s amazing; she’s so young and so good,” said Sinclair, who was on crutches and is expected to miss the East final against Wilmington’s Hoggard High. “We couldn’t have asked for a better backup goalie.”
Gibbons (18-1) won its seventh straight match since a loss to defending state champion Charlotte Catholic. Apex (15-3) was the state runner-up with a 10-9 loss to Catholic last year.
Never miss a local story.
The Crusaders led 3-1 when Sinclair was injured. Apex quickly responded with two goals to tie the match before Young settled down in the net.
“I was a little nervous when I came in,” Young said. “But I knew I had to shake it off and get the next one.”
For the most part, the first half of the playoff match was similar to the regular-season meeting when the teams traded goals. Gibbons led 7-6 lead at halftime, thanks to a goal by Jordan Lappin with 1:11 left when she shot from close range, caught the deflected save and re-wound to shoot and score.
But the game took two unexpected momentum swings in the second half. Apex scored four unanswered goals between 21:52 and 19:45 remaining for a 10-7 lead.
Gibbons, though, didn’t succumb to the change of momentum. The Crusaders ran off six straight unanswered for a 13-10 lead in an eight-minute stretch.
Ultimately, the match came down to the final seconds just as it did in the regular season.
With Apex a player down, Lappin scored on an eight-meter free possession with 34 seconds to play. On the ensuing faceoff, teammate Sarah Comstock scooped up the loose ball. Comstock said she leaned toward Apex’s leading scorer, Mia Castagnero, on the faceoff and pounced on the loose ball.
That’s when Gibbons went into the equivalent of a four-corners basketball stall. Lappin had the ball last behind the net when she circled toward the goal and then pivoted away as the final seconds ticked off.
Lappin led Gibbons with seven goals. Erica Skowron scored four and Comstock and Elizabeth Wilson added two each.
Meredith Chapman led Apex with six scores. Castagnero added four and Gracie Fulkerson three.
“We had six of new starters and it took us awhile to learn to play together,” Apex Mike Bagnasco said. “We started to peak at the right time, but we didn’t win this one. I feel sorry for the girls the season ended.”
Gibbons boys roll: Cardinal Gibbons (15-4) led 12-2 at halftime and cruised to a 17-4 victory over Chapel Hill (12-7) in an NCHSAA 3A/2A/1A third-round match on the Crusaders’ field.
Nick Forbes led Gibbons with five goals as 10 Crusaders scored. Kevin Barry, Jack Zarnik and Charles Van Dyke added two each. Others scoring a goal apiece were Mark Schachte, James Sriraman, Hunter Van Horn, Connor Scanlin, Brian Zarzour and Jack Shelton.
Scoring for Chapel Hill were Sean Voelkel, Nick Augusta, Mike Wasson and Chris Matthews.
The defending state champions had a bye in the first round and have won their second and third-round matches by a combined score of 36-5.
Next for Gibbons is fellow Big 8 Conference foe Cedar Ridge. The Red Wolves, 15-10 winners at Jacksonville’s Northside High, are making their first-ever appearance in the East final.