Apex girls soccer coach Kevin Todd has seen Carla Thomas curl in a corner kick for a goal before in practice, and on Wednesday she may have turned around the Cougars’ season with the same play.
Thomas’ corner kick with just more than two minutes left took an unusual bend and evaded the Cary goalkeeper for the winning goal in a 2-1 victory. It was Apex’s first win of the season, and it came against the school’s oldest Southwest Wake Athletic Conference rival.
“I’ve seen her do that before. Just at the most opportune of times, when we needed it the most, it happened against Cary to pull it out at the end of regulation. That was rewarding,” Todd said.
Apex (1-4, 1-3) had Cary (2-4, 1-3) on its heels for most of the first half. It finally paid off for the Cougars when Kaitlyn Barbour scored in the 37th minute after a teammate had hit the crossbar.
“Alex (Graf) had the cross in and bounced off the post and landed in front of my foot. I got a touch and hit it,” Barbour said.
Momentum shifted to Cary right after halftime. Coach Laura Kerrigan said she moved Katie Carter to an attacking midfield position and it paid dividends as she and Mia Ziade found scoring opportunities.
“In the second half we just came out on fire and created a lot of chances in the second half. We just found the iron too much,” Kerrigan said. “Certainly, in a regular preseason we would’ve hoped to have worked out some of these things early. But you know, we’re working them out now and the great thing about this league is we get a chance to play everyone twice.”
In the 48th minute, Kyra Kandel was fouled from behind on a breakaway, drawing both a red card and a penalty kick. Kandel, who has scored at least one goal in each SWAC game, hammered in the goal to tie the game.
The rest of Cary’s shots, however, were near-misses.
“Unlucky,” Kerrigan said. “We put a lot of balls on goal today and a lot of them hit the bar. Sometimes soccer goes that way.”
Winning, by itself, would have done a lot for Apex’s confidence. Winning while having to play the last 32 minutes with just 10 players after the red card did even more.
“We keep getting (wins) taken right from under our feet. We get up and they end up coming back. Playing a man down; we wanted this one,” Barbour said. “You could tell at halftime. Players were getting hyped up. You could tell there was a change in our season.”
Todd called it a “huge win.”
“They just wanted a victory, very very badly,” he said.