In the first meeting between the girls’ lacrosse teams from Cardinal Gibbons and Middle Creek since 2009, it was anyone’s guess what would happen during their N.C. High School Athletic Association third-round playoff game.
The N&O’s top-ranked Crusaders jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first 74 seconds, but the Mustangs’ unorthodox formation with seven players on offense helped Middle Creek slow down their transition-happy hosts. Back-to-back unassisted scores from Mustangs’ junior midfielder Sam Caputo – five minutes apart – closed the gap to one at the 11:21 mark.
“It threw us off a bit,” said Cardinal Gibbons junior attacker Jordan Lappin who had game-highs with six goals and four assists. “But we’re smart, we figured it out and got going.”
Indeed they did.
The Crusaders would score the final nine goals of the first half to take a 10-point lead and were never seriously threatened again in a 17-6 triumph that kept Gibbons’ record perfect at 19-0.
“We had not seen that before, and we had not prepared for it at all,” Cardinal Gibbons head coach Patricia Alexander said. “They did not flinch. They recognized it and kicked it up a notch. Their lacrosse education and IQ showed. I could not be more proud.”
Cardinal Gibbons will take on Wilmington Hoggard in the fourth round on Friday. The Crusaders topped the Vikings 15-11 in last year’s East Region championship. Hoggard defeated Wilmington Ashley 13-6 to advance.
No. 6-ranked Middle Creek wrapped up the season at 14-2. Something head coach Rosemarie Piccirillo couldn’t be more proud of considering just six years ago, the Mustangs were 1-13.
“We did a good job of slowing it down because we knew we could not run with them, we are just not that good of a team,” Piccirillo said. “We won some draws early, but then they started to get some and when they did, they scored quick. The first 15 minutes, we were right there with them.”
It may have been different if two shots by Caputo didn’t draw iron in the ninth and 14th minutes.
Other than winning draws, a slight switch of defensive tactics also helped Cardinal Gibbons’ cause. Noticing its attack plan, senior defender Sydney Anderson started to shadow Mustangs’ attacker Madison Boudreau.
“We wanted to take her out of her game,” said Anderson, a Notre Dame commit. “It really rattled their offense.”
With 9:34 left in the first half, Lappin fed senior attacker Erica Skowron at the end of a fast break following a turnover.
Skowron, who will play at American, buried it into the back of the net for one of her five goals. She scored less than a minute later to make it 5-2 and Cardinal Gibbons notched two more in 48 seconds to firmly take control.
“(Middle Creek) just kept the ball away from us,” Skowron said. “And our defense did a great job keeping them at bay the first 15 minutes.
“But once we got the ball, we were able to execute as usual.”