Coach Brian Miller told his team he wants 30 goals from senior Aaron Latigue's throw-ins and free kicks. He wasn't expecting Latigue to be one of the scorers.
But in overtime against visiting Apex on Monday, Latigue sent in a wondrous long shot that he collected just after his own throw-in had been bounced out of the box.
The rocket sailed into the far right corner from 25 yards out, and it held up as the game winner. The Golden Hawks won 3-2 to take a one-game lead on first place in the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference.
“It was really a hit-and-hope, but I know I had put it on frame. The ball kind of did the work for me and curled into the upper 90,” Latigue said.
According to Miller, Holly Springs (8-1-1, 4-1) had never beaten Apex before.
“I think the Green Hope (loss) was a real eye-opener realizing we weren’t all that yet and we had to beat the big-name teams,” Miller said. “We had to get that monkey off our back (and prove) that we could beat them.”
Miller had high praise for his, sometimes patchwork, back line. Despite picking up two in-game injuries, they kept Apex’s speedy forwards from getting good shots on frame.
Apex coach Kevin Todd said he had hoped his team could up their speed of play and not possess as long in the attacking third.
“These are things that have to coalesce for us now,” he said.
But at the same time, he knows one loss won’t knock his team out of a wild SWAC race.
“It was played at an intense level. Both teams knew we were striving for first place,” Todd said. “It’s disappointing, but in the whole scheme of the race right now, it’s just a setback we can deal with and come back from.”
Apex (8-3-1, 4-2) had led 2-1 at halftime before Holly Springs’ Estevan Mendoza leveled the game in the 47th minute in one of the hardest ways one can.
In a frantic scrum, an Apex defender cleared the ball upside Mendoza’s head. It ricocheted into the net.
Apex had scored both of their goals on set pieces – a 9th minute header from Will Tomlinson off the free kick of Alex Stewart and a 29th minute volley from Aidan Buie off a corner kick by Tomlinson.
“We definitely took care” of the Cougars’ set pieces in the second half, Latigue said. “We started watching the players and not the ball coming over our heads.”
Holly Springs’ lone first half goal was in the 26th minute, with Jonah Mulligan scoring off the corner kick from Brent Mahasi.