The Wake County Cup final will feature powerhouse programs from the 4A and 3A ranks.
Sanderson defeated Apex 1-0 and host Cardinals Gibbons beat Millbrook 3-0 in the tournament semifinals Monday.
The Spartans and Crusaders will play in the championship at Cardinal Gibbons Sept. 19. It’s a repeat appearance for Sanderson, which finished second to Apex in the inaugural tournament last year.
“Each game we’ve gotten a little better,” Cardinal Gibbons coach Tim Healy said. “Sanderson’s always good. They’re the defending 4A Eastern Regional champs. They’re going to be a good squad that is disciplined, and we’re going to have to make sure we play really well like we did tonight.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
Sanderson (2-0-1, No. 1 in N&O rankings) got its only goal in the 38th minute on a strike from sophomore Daniel Bascunan-Wiley.
“I remember thinking ‘this isn’t going to go well’ and I took it with my left foot. It just went over the keeper, top corner. I was surprised,” said the right-footed Bascunan-Wiley.
No. 2 Apex (2-1) had more shots on goal than Sanderson, making a busy night for goalkeeper Walker Lozaw.
“It was scary. They were on the goal the whole day. They’re the fastest team I’ve ever played in my entire life. Our backs did a great job getting the ball out,” Lozaw said. “We stood like a wall the whole time. We got tired, but we stood like a wall and got through it and I’m so proud of them.”
“Our defense, who has struggled, really stayed together as a group and really stayed organized. And Walker came up big,” Sanderson coach Todd Worley said.
Apex coach Kevin Todd wasn’t disappointed in the result after the way his team battled in the second half.
“We lost an opportunity to win a tournament title, but in the whole scheme of things, in the long run, when you see your team step up another level and execute like you ask them to at halftime, it bodes well,” Todd said. “This is a great, great event. Whoever wins this, it’s a nice little feather in your cap and givs you some momentum.”
No. 5 Cardinal Gibbons (2-0-1) pressured No. 4 Millbrook (1-1) from start to finish.
“I think their pressure really does set up a lot of what they do,” Millbrook coach Matt Edwards said. “It was good for us to have to play and deal with that pressure. The result is not what we want, but we got to see some things in ourselves and have some ideas for stuff to work on.”
The Crusaders went up in the seventh minute thanks to Kyle Rhoder, who finished a pass from Cameron Stuttsas it slowed to a crawl just outside the top right corner of the box.
A deep free kick from Cooper Duplantis landed in the box and couldn’t be handled by the goalkeeper, squirting to Nathan Kirsch, who tapped in the open-netter in the 57th minute.
In the 70th minute, Cesar Palacios had a penalty kick blocked, but he scrambled to get to finish the rebound, and made it 3-0.
“It’s different this year because we start with three backs, and I think we have a lot more in the midfield and a lot more pressure coming up. So we’re able to lock teams down in the back and put them in bad situations and really pressure their weak point,” Duplantis said.
In the consolation semifinals, Raleigh Charter defeated Garner 4-2 and Green Hope beat Heritage 4-1.
Garner and Heritage will be in the seventh-place game while Raleigh Charter and Green Hope will play in the fifth-place game at Cardinal Gibbons on Sept. 18.