Cardinal Gibbons’ home turf has had no shortage of lacrosse action this year and will continue to see more as both Crusaders teams advanced to the East final after wins against the Leesville Road boys, 11-5, and Wilmington’s Hoggard girls, 17-7.
All three of Gibbons’ playoff opponents have come into the playoffs with two losses or less, and all have three left Raleigh after conceding by double-digits.
The last team to become the Crusaders’ victim had an especially long ride home as Hoggard never led in a 17-7 defeat.
Erica Skowron scored four of Gibbons’ first five goals to open the game, giving the Crusaders a lead they didn’t relinquish.
“It set the tone and tempo, it was paramount we get that jump and those draws,” Gibbons coach Patricia Alexander said.
A 4-1 response from the Vikings cut the deficit to two goals, but the Crusaders scored twice in the final 1:03 of the first half and proceeded the intermission with another three goals from Grace Nelson, Morgan Winstead and Elizabeth Wilson steal back momentum.
From there, Gibbons extended the lead to double digits to cruised to its 12th straight win by 10 or more goals.
As the stage grows, so do the Crusaders ambition.
“I told them to not let the moment get too big for them. We’ve settled in to how we’ve been playing,” Alexander said. “Their desire and want from getting a taste of it last year is what’s been driving them.”
Skowron (6), Jordan Lappin (5), Wilson (2), Grace Nelson (2), Forbes Collier and Morgan Winstead each got on the score sheet for the Crusaders. Gabby Young had nine saves.
Cardinal Gibbons’ aggressive defense served as a catalyst to the offense as the Crusaders picked up their ninth straight win, downing Leesville Road 11-5.
“We played a high pressure type of game that we thought we had an advantage doing,” Gibbons coach Alex Buckley said. “It’s a little nerve-wracking because you don’t know if someone is going to smash someone in the head, but we were very disciplined. There’s been things for months we’ve been trying to understand and at times we’ve been clueless, but we were outstanding.”
The boys game’s start was parallel to the girls game, as the Crusaders jumped out to a 4-0 lead before Leesville Road’s Alex Shearer halted the run. Anthony Digirolamo got a goal right before halftime to bring the lead to to 5-1, a margin that could’ve been much higher if not for eight saves from Pride goalie Graham Holmes.
“Graham has raised the bar. His vision is so good and he’s a captain on the field and sees things we don’t even have to communicate to him,” Leesville coach Frank Zirkle said.
In the second half, Holmes’ heroics weren’t enough to keep Leesville afloat as the Crusaders scored five in a row.
“In the third quarter, our guys came out and played their game,” Buckley said.
The Pride got two goals in the final 19 seconds of the third period, the latter of which was a pick-and-pop goal scored by faceoff specialist Davis Sampere eight seconds winning the draw.
Connor Scanlin scored to open the fourth quarter and bring Gibbons’ goal count to 11 before Griffin McNamara and Eric Fitz ended the game with back-to-back Leesville goals, but it was too little, too late.
After undoubtedly the greatest season in Leesville lacrosse history that included 13 games on the road, Zirkle isn’t read to put a period on the story.
“We were road warriors and we embraced it. We have a great group of young kids and they’ve bought into the fact we’re building for the future and not just one year,” he said. “They all understand that we we’re going to keep working hard going forward.”