It’s nothing new for Cardinal Gibbons to add a N.C. High School Athletic Association lacrosse state title to the school trophy case, but this was the first in the last four seasons the boys and girls brought home duplicate plaques.
The Gibbons boys opened the Saturday double-header sweep at WakeMed Soccer Park with a 12-5 win over Charlotte Ardrey Kell. The girls followed with a 17-10 victory over Charlotte Catholic. Both matches were played on the Koka Booth Stadium field adjoining the main stadium due to a North Carolina FC match Saturday night on the stadium turf.
The Crusaders won their NCHSAA Girls Division title for the fourth straight year, while the Gibbons boys won the 4A Division state title for the first time since 2016. The boys had won the 3A/2A/1A Division titles in 2014 and 2015 before moving up to 4A in 2016. The boys had fallen in the 4A semifinals the last two seasons.
“We got closer as programs this year,” Gibbons girls coach Patricia Alexander said. “We saw the guys working hard, having success and keeping humble. To have both of us win in the same year is awesome. It’s hard. The girls had pressure on them with expectations, but they did a great job of managing it.”
Continuity also plays a role. Alexander finished her fifth season, while boys coach Alex Buckley completed his sixth.
“We’re fortunate to coach at a place where there is a lot of support from the administration,” Buckley said. “We get to take trips (to out-of-state tournaments). They give us the ability to make our teams as good as we can. Trish does a phenomenal job with her team. We talk a lot about how we approach things. It think we share philosophically how we approach things to teach kids how to grow up in ways that we have been taught.”
The Gibbons boys finished 18-4 and Ardrey Kell 19-4. The Gibbons girls finished 18-3 and the Catholic 17-5.
As the Crusaders stood on the sideline while facing the crowd with their heads tilted toward the midfield awards ceremony, senior Nick Gorman peaked his head around the players blocking his view while awaiting the announcement of the game’s MVP.
No one looked more surprised than Gorman as his jaw dropped, his teammates slapped him on the back and they pushed him forward to the award’s table. Once he received to plaque, he looked around wondering what to do next. An NCHSAA official told him to stand there for a photo.
“I was, I was (more surprised more than anybody),” Gorman said. “There are so many more guys on this team that could be MVP as well. Everyone had a job and they all did it.”
But on a balanced team that overpowered Kell in every phase of the game, nobody dominated their job better than
Gorman. He won 18-of-18 face-offs (he wasn’t on the field for the two face-offs Gibbons didn’t win).
“It’s different than other sports,” Buckley said. “You have to get the ball. You’re not given the ball. You can score and you can get it again (on a face-off). That creates and advantage for a team that can do it well.”
On offense, Gibbons spread out its scoring among nine players.
Senior Joe Torres had three goals and one assist, freshman Caden Zadell three goals and two assists and senior Will Stock two goals.
Senior Patrick King added one goal and one assist, senior Matt Pancoast one goal, sophomore Cole Argay one goal, freshman Trent Orr one goal and sophomore Griffin Cooling had three assists.
Gibbons senior goalie Riley Myer also had a strong game in the net, but the score would have been more lopsided without some spectacular saves from Kell sophomore goalie Gage Turner. The best might have been one when the took a shot from point blank range and caught the ball in his net as it left the opponent’s stick.
Charlotte Catholic was bidding for an upset throughout the first half despite losing to Gibbons 19-5 in the regular season. The Cougars led 5-3 at midway through the first half, although the Crusaders rallied for a 6-6 time at intermission.
But the second half was more like the regular-season match as Gibbons scored three straight goals in the first three-and-a-half minutes for a 9-6 lead. Catholic answered to trim the deficit to 9-7, but the Crusaders kept up the pressure with a 6-1 scoring burst for a 15-8 lead with 7:57 to play.
Senior Caroline Kimel, the MVP of the match, said the halftime adjustment was about better ball control. Catholic was dominated in possession in the second half.
“We needed to take better care of the ball,” Kimel said. “Once was started getting the draws and taking care of the ball nothing was going to stop us.”
Kimel, who is bound for East Carolina on a lacrosse scholarship, finished with three goals and four assists.
In all, eight Crusaders scored. Junior Bailey Match had four goals and an assist and senior Catherine Field three goals. Scoring two goals each were senior Grace New and sophomore Caroline Mullahy. Solo goals came from junior Ali Rogers and senior Tara Dorsett.