Published: Apr 20, 2012 11:01 PM
Modified: Apr 20, 2012 11:02 PM
CARY - With just a few key plays in a matter of seconds, Green Hope’s flawless season was in jeopardy.
Leading by two with less than a minute left, Falcons goalie MaryCate Kapopoulos made a tough save and tried to distribute the ball to one of her teammates. But on her throw, the ball slipped out, falling behind Kapopoulos and rolling into the Green Hope goal.
Apex won the ensuing draw, and with just 55 seconds left, the Cougars had a chance to force overtime.
But the Apex attack was thwarted by a Falcons defense not ready to concede another goal. Junior Julie Hagan came up with a loose ball with 37 seconds to go, and it was the last time anyone from Apex had possession.
Green Hope, ranked No. 1 in the state, outlasted third-ranked Apex 14-13 in a game that had swings of momentum throughout.
“When it goes back-and-forth, you’ve got to get on fire and make your run as opposed to theirs,” Hagan said. “I wouldn’t play if it was just game after game, we go down and score. That’s what you play for is that final few seconds.”
It’s the second time in less than a week where the Falcons have claimed a one-goal decision against a fellow top-three team. Last Saturday, Green Hope had taken down then-undefeated Charlotte Catholic 9-8.
“(Apex) came back and made us fight for the win. It was a mentally tough game for my players, so I’m glad they came out on top,” said Green Hope coach Abby Mead. “We practiced all week for close games and were expecting it. And we have some players who really thrive in pressure situations.”
Green Hope had won the previous meeting 15-12, but Apex was without two key players - Katie Burnet and Beth Fellows - due to injury.
Apex came out of the gate set on reversing that decision by scoring the game’s first two goals. But Green Hope roared back with five unanswered.
The two sides traded goals for most of the first half, with Apex coming as close as 8-6 before Green Hope extending it on sophomore Mackenzie Koeller’s fourth goal made it 10-6 with just 26.5 seconds left.
The Cougars came out with the first three goals in the second half, but it was numerous saves by goalie Tara Gehring and key deflections by Apex defenders that allowed the team to soon tie the score.
With 8:53 left, Burnet’s third goal of the contest tied it at 11.
“They were as prepared as they could be,” said Apex coach Sarah Fellows said of her team. “It’s the best game I’ve seen them play, and I’m very proud...They were worlds better than they were in the first game, and obviously Green Hope is too.
Green Hope’s Campbell Stanley scored a go-ahead goal with 7:13 left, which was answered shortly thereafter by Apex’s Casey Nesbit at the 6:32 mark.
Maggie Auslander, a UNC-Chapel Hill verbal commit, scored unassisted off a quick spin move over her right shoulder to take a 13-12 lead with 3:22 remaining. Auslander won the next draw, and the Falcons took a methodical approach to setting up sophomore Katherine Smith’s first goal of the game with 1:51 on the clock.
Although Apex benefitted from the own goal and a final possession, the win belong to the Falcons.
“It shows us that we’re the team to beat now, but we have things to work on,” Mead said. “It wasn’t a perfect game by any meanans so we know we have to take this game with a grain of salt and keep trying to improve as we go into the tournament.”
The two sides have all but locked up the first and second spots in Conference 2, which means that when the state playoffs start in early May, the only way they would meet again would be in the East regional final.
“We’re feeling good about this,” coach Fellows said. “We know how hard it is to beat a team three times, so we’re hoping (for) this next time.”