APEX — Validation – that was the overall sentiment after Green Hope’s 14-12 win at Apex on Wednesday night.
The 15-13 overtime win over the Cougars the Friday before was nice, but to repeat the feat days later was much more satisfying.
“Apex is always strong,” Falcons senior Maggie Auslander said. “And every year it seems like they get stronger the second time we play them. We didn’t have our best game Friday, so we came into this game more excited, more focused and more together as a team. It feels good to be able to beat them again.”
The increased focus showed early as Green Hope stormed out to a 4-0 lead six minutes into the game. Auslander started things with a goal late in the first minute, which was followed by a Katherine Smith score a minute and 26 seconds later.
Auslander found the back of the net again with 22:20 left in the first half, and at the 19:08 mark Mackenzie Koeller – assisted by Lilly Stanley – capped the early run.
“Friday’s game was tough,” Stanley said. “We were not prepared at the beginning of that game. We were coming off spring break, so we hadn’t played or practiced as much. Today, though, our mindset was definite. We were ready to play.”
Apex finally got on the board with 17:43 left in the opening half when Abbey Flynn scored, but Koeller and Quincy Smith answered quickly to push the Falcons’ lead out to five.
With their backs against the wall, the Cougars began to claw their way back into the game. Beth Fellows and Mia Castagnero scored back-to-back goals to pull Apex to within three. Stanley scored with 10:15 left to make it 7-3 Green Hope, but the rest of the half would belong to the Cougars.
Castagnero scored her second goal with 3:29 left, and Apex roared into the half with three goals – from Meredith Chapman, Castagnero again and Erin Cornell – in the final 42 seconds to tie the game at seven.
The momentum carried over into the second half. Jessi Deluca struck twice in the first two minutes, and Flynn scored another goal to make it 10-7 Cougars with 22:47 left in the game.
His team now behind, Falcons coach Joe Nassif called a timeout.
“When the other team has the momentum like that, we can definitely get worried,” Stanley said. “So coach called us together to settle us down and make sure we knew we could beat this team.”
Whatever Nassif said seemed to have worked. Green Hope rattled off seven unanswered goals over the next 16 minutes to take a 14-10 lead it would never relinquish.
“We got on the same page as a team after the timeout,” Auslander said. “Our passes worked better and our chemistry as a whole was much better.”
Apex got two late goals from Deluca and Chapman, but the damage had already been done. The Falcons seized possession late and ran out the clock.
Cougars coach Sarah Fellows said she was proud of her team’s effort.
“Lacrosse is a game of runs,” she said. “It’s who has the longest and last run that usually wins. Unfortunately, that wasn’t us. No one has held us to two goals in the last 20 minutes of a half this year, so you have to give credit to Green Hope, but our guys have nothing to be ashamed of. Our seniors, especially Jenny Wilkes, Taylor Grant and Fellows, really stepped up for us in their last home games.”
With the season sweep of Apex, Green Hope sits in the driver’s seat to win the conference and claim the No. 1 seed headed into the playoffs.
Asked about her team’s mindset as they move closer to defending their state title from a year ago, Auslander said, “With this win, we’re a very confident team right now.”