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Charlotte Catholic claims title over Apex

By J. Mike Blake
mblake@newsobserver.com

CARY With one last goal, Charlotte Catholic boys’ lacrosse coach Bo Turner turned to make sure he saw the jubilation behind him. It began to sink in.

“That was priceless right there,” Turner said. “That excitement – that’s what it’s all about.”

Charlotte Catholic defeated reigning state champion Apex 11-8 in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A championship game Friday night at WakeMed Soccer Park.

Apex (19-3), which was making its third appearance in the NCHSAA title in five seasons, had the statistical advantage.

It won the faceoffs 10-2 and the groundballs 33-24. But Charlotte Catholic (22-3) countered the statistical disadvantage by forcing turnovers and getting out into transition.

Catholic (22-3) got a good look at how dangerous Apex’s faceoff game could be just after it had scored the game’s first goal.

In nine seconds, Apex senior Colby Lalicker won the faceoff, moved upfield, found Chandler Besser, who then dished to an open Brendan Farrell for the tying goal.

Turner saw a way to combat it.

“He’s a great faceoff guy (Lalicker). Giving great wing play and kind of tying them up so they didn’t get fast break opportunities was big in turning the tide,” Turner said. “Getting the turnovers and getting the transition play was key.”

After Apex grew its lead to 3-1, Catholic changed strategy. Catholic hounded Lalicker or Ryan Campbell – whoever was taking the faceoff for Apex – and tried to gain possession back almost immediately.

Catholic forced some errant passes and disrupted the groove Apex had so quickly gotten into.

“Early on we had some looks that we had planned on and looked good. They made some good adjustments that started to take that away. We never really got back in sync,” Apex coach John Hayden said. “We never just settled in.”

Catholic tacked on two more goals – including one with a man-advantage – to tie it 3-all at the end of the first quarter. Catholic then added the first two goals of the second quarter and had all momentum before Apex broke a 14-minute, 47-second scoring drought thanks to Lalicker’s goal with 3:20 before half.

Farrell’s third goal of the game less than a minute early sent the two teams into halftime tied at 5-all.

But Apex was outscored 3-1 in the third quarter as Catholic kept its disruptive presence on defense and turned it into transition points.

“We’re definitely a run-and-gun kind of team. There’s not many teams that can keep up with us in transition,” said senior Connor Pool, who was the game’s MVP with a team-high three goals. “We made our shots count.”

Apex trailed 8-6 entering the fourth. Catholic, which had just suffered an ejection, scored a goal with a man down and 10:13 left in the game, dealing a huge blow.

Jake Priesrer had two goals for Catholic while Seamus Byrne, Jackson Harris, Jack Speidel, Robbie Walton, Ryan Beltrondo and Zak Butz each added one.

Speidel, James Powers, Preisrer and Butz had one assist apiece.

This was the first time the NCHSAA has held a separate championship for 4A teams. The same two schools – both with Cougars as their mascots – will play Saturday for the girls’ lacrosse title.

“Most of us staying the night and we’ll be back out here tomorrow to cheer on the girls, hopefully to a victory,” Turner said.

This was Catholic’s fourth boys’ lacrosse state title, but first since the NCHSAA sanctioned the sport for the 2010 season. Catholic won in the last year prior to sanctioning, 2009.

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