While one team’s dream of winning a championship died Tuesday night, another’s shot at redemption stayed alive.
Nearly one year removed from a one-goal loss in the 2014 NCHSAA girls’ lacrosse championship, Apex kept its postseason run going by defeating previously unbeaten Wakefield 15-13 in the third round of the playoffs thanks to a stellar performance from senior midfielder Mia Castagnero.
Trying to prolong her high school career, Castagnero, a University of Richmond signee, delivered in a major way when her team needed her the most by scoring back-to-back goals to break up a tied game in the second half to give Apex a 14-12 lead with less than seven minutes remaining.
She finished with a team-high five goals as the Cougars managed to hang on.
“It’s awesome to be able to continue my senior year,” Castagnero said. “I want nothing more than to be able to play more games, but it’s not over yet. We have a couple more games until the state championship and that’s what we’re going for.”
With the victory, the Cougars advance to the fourth round of the playoffs and will take on Cardinal Gibbons on Friday.
For a Wakefield group that had one of the most successful regular seasons in program history, having its first loss of the year be its last is a tough pill to swallow.
“It’s just unfortunate,” Wakefield head coach Denna Grasso said. “Apex is a good team and we knew that going in and it’s too bad that we didn’t get the win this time.”
Sophomore attacker Hanna Anderson led Wakefield with five goals on the day, while junior Julie Anne Pretty added three.
In what was a very evenly-matched contest for the entirety of the first half, the two teams were tied 9-9 come halftime as there were five lead changes in the first 25 minutes.
However, the second half was slower paced. With both defenses rising to the occasion, goals were fewer and farther between.
Still, the two teams remained neck-and-neck with each other, with neither side ever leading by more than three goals.
Nonetheless, Castagnaro and fellow Apex senior Meredith Chapman, who scored three goals, proved to be too much for Wakefield to overcome as the Cougars pulled away in the end.
“At the end I told everybody that ‘This is Mia’s game,’” Apex head coach Mike Bagnasco said. “She’s one of the best players in the state, she has to finish and she did.”