One of Cardinal Gibbons’ first scoring chances against Apex came in the form of a penalty kick.
But Cougars senior goalkeeper Corey Vodicka rejected it.
He saved another Crusaders shot on goal, this time from inside the 6-yard line, in the ninth minute of Saturday’s Wake County Cup championship at Cardinal Gibbons.
Vodicka’s spree continued as an attempt danced off the tip of his fingers. His in-goal efforts helped the Cougars to three quick first-half goals from which Cardinal Gibbons couldn’t overcome.
The Crusaders fell, 3-0, in the title game for their first loss on the season. Apex stayed undefeated.
“We took about 20 minutes off,” Cardinal Gibbons coach Tim Healy said, “and Apex made the most of those 20 minutes and put in three goals.”
One of the Crusaders’ early goals for the season was to compete for the Wake County Cup for the second straight time of its three-year existence. They defeated Sanderson last year for the cup.
Though Cardinal Gibbons failed to dig into a three-goal hole, even after halftime adjustments, Healy said sometimes you learn more from losing than winning.
“We can’t fall asleep for any length of time,” he said of Saturday’s lesson. “We have to use this as a learning opportunity and move forward from there. We can use this as a springboard to kind of regroup.”
The Crusaders, undefeated in their new PAC-6 Conference, continue league play at Jordan on Monday. The defending 3A champion has gone 2-0 in the PAC 6, their first time playing in a 4A league.
“We need guys to step up as a whole,” Healy said. “We see it here and there, but we need to see it as a collective group. At halftime (against Apex), we were able to organize and we got everybody back on the same track, but soccer’s a game where there are no timeouts and this and that. They need to be able to do that on the field kind of fast.”
Two minutes into the second half of the Wake County Cup championship, a Cardinal Gibbons shot rolled too far left of the goal. With 15 minutes left in the match, another Crusader shot – from just feet away – was stuffed.
Inside the 76th minute, one of the final attempts to break up the shutout was deflected in the box.
Crusaders senior forward Zachary Clements helped run the offense that got those looks in the second half.
“He was just trying to go for goal,” Healy said, “which was exactly what we wanted him to do: take the ball, go into the box and try to score.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan