Apex will be sending both of its lacrosse teams to the East regional finals on Tuesday after sweeping a third-round doubleheader on Friday.
The girls will travel to Cardinal Gibbons after defeating visiting Wakefield 14-8, while the boys will get to host Jordan after rallying past feisty conference foe Green Hope 11-9.
In the first meeting, a 20-7 Apex win, the Cougars led by 10 early in the first half. This time, they only led 6-3 at the midway point.
“Our defense has stepped up in the last half of the season,” Wakefield coach Denna Grasso said. “We knew we neeed to double the ball and we knew who we needed to double.”
The Wolverines’ strategy took away chances for Apex’s top two scorers – Mia Castagnero (4 goals, 1 assist) and Erin Cornell (2 goals, 1 assist) – but opened the door for Abbey Flynn (5 goals, 1 assist) and Meredith Chapman (3 goals, 1 assist).
“I was surprised they weren’t doubling me,” Flynn said. “It was like they put too much pressure. They would lunge, which is every attacker’s ream when they lunge.”
A late scoring spree – five goals in the last three minutes – gave Apex a bigger margin of victory than what the game seemed destined for.
Wakefield is losing top scorer Ashley Blawas and most of its defense, but the Wolverines (16-3) made it farther than it had in school history.
Abby Blakely had three goals while Ashley Blawas (2 goals, 2 assists), Megan Blawas (2 goals, 1 assist) and Julie Anna Pretty (1 goal) rounded out the Wakefield scoring.
“Our goal was to get (to the semifinals) this year,” Grasso said. “We do lose a good core of our defense but we do have a lot of kdis coming back. We are young, and that’s a good thing too. We’re not going away.”
Apex will travel to Cardinal Gibbons, a team it lost to 18-14 earlier this year.
“One of the things we usually struggle with with Gibbons is the draw,” Flynn said. “And I feel like sometimes we get down on ourselves. And we have no room to do that for this game. We really need to be 100 percent all game long.”
“We’ve got clean up if we want to go play Gibbons, because Gibbons is going to score. So we’re going to have to not drop easy passes like we did today,” Apex coach Mike Bagnasco said.
The teams were tied at 2-all after the first quarter and the Falcons led 5-2 at halftime. Green Hope jumped out to a 7-3 lead before Apex (18-2) stormed back into it.
Senior Colby Lalicker began to shift momentum by winning the draw and taking just second to score. He ran just nine off the clock to open the fourth quarter and tie it at 7-all.
“The kids found out something about themselves coming back the way they did,” Apex coach John Hayden said. “You’ve got to have those guys This is a players’ game, and you need your dudes to step up. You need your seniors to step up and they did.”
Lalicker, who had a game-high five goals (plus 1 assist), gave credit for his performance to the rest of the team.
“It’s all about my team rooting me on the entire time,” Lalicker said. “It really gets me a boost of confidence. And it’s all about confidence on the faceoff.”
Apex also had two goals from Jack Hayden (1 assist) and one from Dayton McGough, Chandler Besser (1 assist), Jakob Harrison and Mike Daum. Brendan Farrell and Ryan Campbell had one assist apiece.
Green Hope (13-8) had three goals from Harrison Wynne, two from Dana Kelly and Nolan Paussa and one from Will McClain (1 assist) and Tucker Burkinshaw. Wilson Booth added one assist.
The Falcons ran off three playoff wins to get to the quarterfinals. The turning point came earlier this year as the Falcons settled into their roles.
“Once we identified what guys were really good at, we tried to get them into a situation where they can do what they do well. We moved a couple of guys into new positions and that worked for us too,” coach John Larkin said. “They’re awesome kids. I couldn’t be happier.”
Apex will host Jordan, who is on a bit of an upset streak of its own having already taken down Middle Creek and East Chapel Hill, on Tuesday.