Expectations could have been tempered this season for the Apex Friendship girls lacrosse team considering the school itself is only in its second year of existence.
The Patriots, however, have performed admirably despite a roster that features nary a senior. With three games left in the year, Friendship is 6-7 overall and 3-4 in the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference.
“It’s a three-year process,” Apex Friendship coach Peter DeStaebler said. “We played very well as freshmen and sophomores last year, we’re playing well as sophomores and juniors this year. Every team is older than us and more experienced, so the girls should be happy with how they’re competing against older, more-experienced teams.”
But playoffs could be in the team’s future. Last season, the Patriots were one of the first teams left out with a 5-6 overall mark. Only the school’s girls golf team, which won the SWAC in the fall, could claim a better two-year start.
DeStaebler says his team’s improved fortunes of late were directly tied into his team’s ability to distribute the ball better.
“The passing and the assists on goals, a lot of the goals in the first part of the season were more individual efforts,” DeStaebler said. “I’m very happy with our passing. We had 12 different goals score and 14 assists (vs. Cary). Against Athens Drive we had a bunch of different goals score and six assists.”
Sophomore Isabella Herrera, one of the Patriots’ top playmakers, acknowledges some new additions to the roster – two players moved up from the JV and two others joined the team from out of state – made it difficult to build cohesion in the early part of the season, but that the talent level as a whole has improved from a year ago.
“We had to learn how to play as a team, but it’s really coming along now,” Herrera said after a March 22 win against Athens Drive. “Last year, we only had a couple of girls that could pass and shoot very well. This year we have a bunch of girls that can do a variety of things, like play offense and defense, instead of just playing offense or defense.”
Herrera was injured against Holly Springs, suffering a concussion on a play that drew a red card. Grace Fleming (47 goals) and Olivia Blake (31 goals) have picked up the scoring responsibilities even more.