When Apex’s Graci Fulkerson, who led the Cougars’ girls lacrosse team with 78 goals a year ago, found out she needed hip surgery that would make her unable to play her senior year, it was a huge blow to her and her teammates.
The roster already had turnover due to seniors graduating, and Fulkerson being injured meant that only four starters were returning to the lineup of a squad that went 15-2 and 10-0 in Southwest Wake Athletic Conference play.
Despite the ailment, she’s found every way she can to be a contributor to Apex’s success.
“She’s our senior captain,” Apex coach Mike Bagnasco said. “Sometimes she’s coming out to the field with a crutch and a stick and ripping shots at the goalie.”
With her on-field ability being negated, she found a niche as Bagnasco’s top player-coach on the sideline.
“I get a little wound up tight so if I talk to them, they tend to think of me as yelling at them but I’m not. I’m just an intense person,” Bagnasco said. “I tell (Fulkerson) that ‘You need to talk to the attackers when they’re down here for me and let them know,’ and she knows what I’m going to tell her. It’s great to have a player who’s so phenomenal to hear it from instead of always coming from me.”
Being able to examine the games from a different angle has been to the benefit of Fulkerson as well, who’ll play at Arizona State next year.
“I’ve grown as a player as well, being able to sit back and watch the game and I’ve learned a lot,” she said. “It was a stressful decision to make knowing I was a big impact on the team last year. But I knew a lot of girls would step up and they have.”