Cardinal Gibbons’ girls lacrosse team felt pressure to defend its N.C. High School Athletic Association state title Saturday afternoon at WakeMed Soccer Park.
This was the Crusaders’ third straight championship appearance following a runner-up finish in 2015. They didn’t want to go home 1-of-3.
But Gibbons also had experience on its side and used it to their advantage. The Crusaders scored five unanswered goals in the match’s first five minutes on their way to a 19-12 victory over Myers Park.
Myers Park was playing in the final for the first time since 2011, and the less experienced Mustangs were tentative in the early moments.
Never miss a local story.
“Cardinal Gibbons is a great team,” Myers Park coach Catherine LeBlanc said. “These girls weren’t here six years ago and that makes a difference.”
The 5-0 lead didn’t last long, though. Myers Park closed to within 5-4 with a goal from Becca Riopel with eight minutes, 33 seconds left in the first half.
But that’s when Cardinals Gibbons responded with three quick goals in two minutes. Two were scored by junior Elizabeth Wilson and one by senior Jordan Lappin. By halftime, Gibbons led 11-8.
Wilson, who finished with a match-high five goals, was named the match MVP. The scoring opened up for Wilson and others when Myers Park shadowed Lappin. The Boston College-bound Lappin only scored two goals, but her impact was felt in other ways.
“I think Jordan is an amazing player,” Wilson said. “She knows how to score and she knows how to pass. She’s the most unselfish player I’ve ever played with. She’s amazing.”
Gibbons’ scoring was spread among seven girls, including eight between the New sisters. Louisville-bound senior Cassie New and sophomore Grace scored four each.
Myers Park senior Elizabeth Robertson led the Mustangs with four goals. Teammate Rachel Perkins closed the deficit 14-10, but Gibbons outscored the Mustangs 5-2 the rest of the way.
Wilson said the title was a relief to the players.
“I think it’s really hard to repeat,” Wilson said. “Everybody is watching you, but every single person on the team worked hard every single day. We worked really hard, but we had fun, too.”