The overall records might not suggest it, but the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference was home to some of the best girls lacrosse teams in the state a season ago.
Five of last year’s six teams made the playoffs, and four won at least one game – none more than state runner-up Apex.
This year, the league, known as “Conference 3” by the N.C. High School Athletic Association, adds Cary and Southern Pines’ Pinecrest High this season.
Apex (17-2, 10-0): The Cougars are loaded for another run at the NCHSAA title this season. Senior midfielder Mia Castagnero scored 73 goals and had 36 assists. Returning teammates Abbey Flynn (41 goals, 28 assists) and Meredith Chapman (25 goals, 20 assists) give Apex lots of offensive firepower to a team that averaged 16.8 goals a year ago.
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Ashley Anderson is a returning all-conference player.
Green Hope (10-6, 7-3): Senior Lilly Stanley posted 48 goals and 39 assists last year for the Falcons, who also return senior Kelly Hagan on defense. Junior Quincy Smith (34 goals, 16 assists) gives the team three returning all-conference players.
Maddie McKinley (13 goals, 12 assists) also returns.
Athens Drive (7-8, 7-3): Coastal Carolina recruit Madeline Bromley (56 goals, 32 assists) leads the way for the Jaguars who also return junior Erin Kenedy (13 goals, 7 assists) and senior Sydney Rupple from the all-conference team.
Middle Creek (5-11, 3-7): Last year was a bit of a breakout season for the Mustangs, who won a playoff game, thanks to sophomore Sam Caputo, senior Holly Hite and junior Maddie Boudreau among others. The team averaged more than 12 goals per game but needs to cut down on the 14.7 allowed.
Panther Creek (6-9, 3-7): Senior Sarah Oeschslin (34 goals, nine assists) is one of the league’s top scorers. She will be joined by Megan Collins (27 goals, five assists) and Madeline Pillar.
Holly Springs (0-12, 0-10): Senior Emily Hayes was the team’s only all-conference player a year ago.
Pinecrest (2-4): The Patriots fared well as a first-year club team last season, beating Heritage 18-11 and losing three other games, including two to Panther Creek, by three points or fewer.
Cary (N/A): The Imps plans to return to the field after a one-year hiatus. Cary was 2-11 (2-10) in 2013.