Apex senior Mia Castagnero was so dominant in the N.C. High School Athletic Association girls’ lacrosse championship game that she received the title MVP despite her team losing 10-9 to Charlotte Catholic.
This year, it’s “championship or bust” for the Cougars, says coach Mike Bagnasco.
With seven starters back, there is enough talent to back up such a lofty goal.
Castagnero, a senior midfielder, scored 73 goals and had 36 assists.
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Returning teammates Abbey Flynn (41 goals, 28 assists) and Meredith Chapman (25 goals, 20 assists) give Apex lots of offensive options when teams try to take away Castagnero. The Cougars averaged 16.8 goals last season.
Castagnero (Richmond), Chapman (High Point), Katie Pelnik (Meredith), Ashley Anderson (Belmont Abbey) and Sarah Arbes (Greensboro College) have all signed to play in college next year.
Bagnasco will rely on Kristen Maselli, Graci Fulkerson and two freshmen who will look to make an immediate impact.
Most of Apex’s new faces are on defense. Carrie Studdard will replace N&O All-Metro goalie Rose Redfoot.
Teams to watch
Athens Drive (7-8): Coastal Carolina recruit Madeline Bromley (56 goals, 32 assists) leads the way for the Jaguars, who also return junior Erin Kenedy and senior Sydney Rupple. Kieran Garvey, a Gardner-Webb recruit, is back from injury.
Broughton (17-3): American University recruit Sydney Fry (43 goals, 24 assists) returns to the co-Cap Eight champs along with goalie Olivia Joyner, junior Farrell Guest (39 goals, 20 assists) and Hattie Warner (33 goals).
Cardinal Gibbons (16-3): The NCHSAA East regional runner-up returns sophomore Jordan Lappin (64 goals, 14 assists) junior Erica Skowron (50 goals, 26 assists), Delaware recruit Sarah Comstock and junior Mogan Winstead (11 goals, 40 assists).
Chapel Hill (11-6): Dan Segal is the Tigers’ new coach and he inherits nine returning starters from a club that reached the third round of the playoffs in 2014. Paige Childers (24 goals) is a University of Mary Washington recruit. Junior Paige Haskins (46 goals, 17 assists) was the club MVP last year.
East Chapel Hill (9-10): The Wildcats, who won the 2013 title, bring back Lena Johnson (49 goals, 10 assists), Marissa Creatore (28 goals) and Elizabeth Jensen (27 goals, 10 assists).
Durham Academy (11-5): The Cavaliers return NCISAA all-state selections sophomore Madison Dunk, senior Jordan Barry, and Duke recruit Chloe Lewis.
Green Hope (10-6): Senior Lilly Stanley posted 48 goals and 39 assists in 2014 and junior Quincy Smith added 34 goals, 16 assists. Kelly Hagan returns to the defense.
Heritage (8-8): The 2014 Huskies made their first playoff appearance with senior Madeline Ade (44 goals), junior Sydney Collins (46 goals) and junior Carly Sullivan (41 goals, 21 assists) leading the scoring.
Millbrook (11-5): The Wildcats made their first playoff appearance last season thanks in part to Wingate defender recruit Erin Brooks and attacker Brooke Elsam.
Ravenscroft (16-3): The Ravens, led by Colorado recruit Olivia Aschman, reached the NCISAA championship game in 2014. Aschman had 77 goals and 19 assists. Junior Anna Collawn had 46 goals and 30 assists and junior Hannah Makepeace was an all-state selection.
Wakefield (16-3): The Wolverines bring back two of their top scorers, juniors Megan Blawas (48 goals, 34 assists) and Julie Anne Pretty (44 goals). Junior Samantha Begin, and Camryn Blawas are key defenders. Junior Jessica Lynch was the team’s all-conference goalie.
Other players to watch
37 goals for 5-11 Mustangs
Dickinson (Pa.) recruit.
51 goals, led Mustangs to playoffs.
Led conference in save percentage.
3-time all-conference pick; 62 goals.
46 goals for first-year program.
34 goals, nine assists.