Published: Mar 09, 2012 02:12 AM
Modified: Mar 10, 2012 08:20 PM
APEX - Skill, depth and resolve are needed to reach the platform of being ranked the No. 1 girls soccer team in the state and No. 2 in the nation.
Green Hope, who holds both those accolades for the time being, knew it had skill entering this season as it returned nine starters from last years two-loss squad, many of whom played on one the countrys best club soccer teams.
The Falcons were sure they had plenty of depth and confident they had the right mentality. But it was hard to show others that fact any better than in Wednesdays 2-1 victory against Apex.
After Apex tied the game in the second half, Green Hope (4-0, 3-0) answered with quickness, taking nine seconds to garner the Falcons go-ahead goal.
After they scored, we knew that we werent going to overtime like last year(s game), said junior Alexis Degler, who headed in the after a free kick by Sydney Curtis flicked off the head of Alexis Shaffer. Degler didnt have to break stride to knock in the goal, and the ball never hit the ground after leaving Curtis foot.
If we want to prove to other teams that were No. 1 in the state, we knew we had to click and score. It was a whole team effort. It built up from the whole entire team, Degler said.
Earlier in the match, an injury to goalkeeper Lisa Armstrong necessitated Sidney Durands move from defender to goalkeeper. Durand, in her first week with the team following basketball season, isnt even the Falcons second option in the net, but Kat Stafford was to ill to play.
Durand allowed Apexs goal with 30:08 left in the second half after saving the first of two Paige Reckert attempts off a corner kick, but she had two more saves that preserved the Falcons win.
She came up huge for us. Anybody else we put back there, Apex takes that lead, Green Hope coach Bobby Peterson said. Shes known that she had to be ready for it, and Sidney Durand is a tough kid. Thats what this team is about. If they have to do something, they go out and do it.
One of the things Im most proud of is they responded when they had to, Peterson said. Thats something special, and thats what this team is about. They really are a good bunch of players, good bunch of people.
Degler, an Ohio State recruit, also scored the games first goal in the sixth minute, taking a free kick from just outside the 18-yard box and tucking the rebound into the bottom right corner of the net.
Even in the loss, Apex (2-3, 2-2) showed that it too could use its depth to adjust to injuries as needed.
Playing without injured senior defender Kaitlyn Walker, a UNC-Charlotte recruit, Apex coach Kevin Todd to make a strategic switch for such a big game. As hes done in two previous games, Todd put Reckert as a center back to start the game.
Reckert, a junior commited to Clemson and forward by trade, spent the night looking like an experienced vet at the position. She owned the back line for most of the night, cutting out passes, dispossessing Green Hope players and jump-starting Apexs offensive attacks with her long passes into the upper third
It gave us confidence to have her back there. Plus, she was on top of her game the entire time she was back there, When Kaitlyn comes back, well put her back there and move Paige back up top.
Theyre just a very well-organized team with some very good talent. You can ill-afford to even make a couple of small mistakes, Todd said.