Corey Vodicka wasn’t in the game when Apex won the inaugural Wake County Cup two years ago.
He was watching.
On Saturday night, the Cougars’ senior goalkeeper had his shot – and he delivered in Apex’s 3-0 title victory over Cardinal Gibbons. Apex stayed undefeated while handing the Crusaders their first loss on the year.
“Man of the match,” Apex coach Kevin Todd said of Vodicka. “Corey just saw everything in slow motion tonight. He was here two years ago as a sophomore, and he didn’t get any playing time. There’s that passion you have when you watched it all the first year and you didn’t come back the second year.
“He just wanted to seize the moment, and it was all about mental focus completely on his part.”
Apex (9-0-1, 5-0 SWAC) played on its heels during the opening minutes of the match at Cardinal Gibbons.
Then, Vodicka was an integral source of the Cougars’ defense spawning their offense.
The 6-foot-2 keeper stuffed a penalty kick and recorded four of his eight saves in 10 minutes, as goals opened for Apex in the first half.
“The first 10 minutes of the game, we came out slow,” an elated Vodicka said after winning the cup. “I just had to do my best to keep us in the game. As a goalie, you have to focus for 80 minutes. That’s what was key. I’m glad I could do this tonight and come out with a win.”
There wasn’t a need for a Vodicka save in the second half until the 62-minute mark. Cardinal Gibbons (7-1-1, 2-0 PAC-6) peppered the goal but several shots flew too far right, soared too high, or rolled too far left.
Vodicka’s last save was a close-range shot that he buried in his arms.
“To me, he was the man of the match,” Cardinal Gibbons coach Tim Healy said. “I think in the first 2 or 3 minutes of the game, when we had the PK blocked and then the keeper (Vodicka) made a fantastic save … it kind of knocked wind out of our sails. We took about 20 minutes off and Apex made the most of the those 20 minutes and put in three goals.”
Two Apex goals in less than 3 minutes. The Cougars began the match on their heels against a tough Cardinal Gibbons team. Patrick Bailey opened scoring in the 13th minute. By time 25 minutes were left the clock in the first half, Apex had a 3-0 lead. Will Tomlinson and Kian Charkhesht accounted for the other two goals.
Three who mattered
Corey Vodicka, Apex: He led the match with eight saves, stuffing a Cardinal Gibbons penalty kick in the first half and a late-game attempt in the second. He stopped shots from as short as six-yards out.
Connor Carr, Apex: Distributed two assists in less than three minutes of the Cougars’ lethal first-half strike.
Zachary Clements, Cardinal Gibbons: Pushed the pace, got into the box and tried to score against a very focused goalkeeper.
Luke Ritsema, Cardinal Gibbons. Cardinal Gibbons junior Drew Rabil’s shot was robbed by a Vodicka save, so Rabil couldn’t help but fall flat on the turf. His older teammate, Ritsema, immediately wrapped his arms around Rabil and lifted him up. The two didn’t exchange words, it was just a gesture of encouragement.
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan