The last time the Cardinal Gibbons boys lacrosse was denied in a N.C. High School Athletic Association state championship, a furious rally from the Crusaders ended in an agonizing defeat as the final shot ricocheted off the crossbar in a one-goal loss to Lake Norman.
Four years later, going against Lake Norman for the 4A title, Gibbons left no doubt.
The Crusaders scored the game’s first eight goals en route to a 14-8 victory.
"We buried them in a hole and it’s hard to play catch up in a state championship," said Gibbons attackman Mark Schachte, who led all players with four goals. "We stuck together and did what we had to do."
Trevor Kirsch was awarded most valuable player after going 16-for-23 from the faceoff X.
"I get a lot of help from my wings … they get the ground balls, I get the clamp and we help our team win" Kirsch said.
After opening goals from Jack Shelton, Kevin Barry, Schachte and Anthony Digirolamo, the Crusaders demoralized the Wildcats when Charles Van Dyke, Digirolamo and Schachte each scored in a 22-second span late in the first quarter. Long stick midfielder Chris Wozencroft assisted two of the goals.
The Wildcats regained their composure on offense in the second stanza, actually leading the Crusaders 3-2 before Kevin Barry scored at the buzzer gave Gibbons 10 goals heading into intermission.
In the third quarter, Lake Norman amped up the pressure but five saves from Gibbons goalie Wesley Wagner kept the Wildcats at bay.
Gibbons’ defenseman Jack Biestek went coast-to-coast and scored to open the fourth quarter before the Wildcats rallied to score five of the game’s last seven goals.
The Crusaders are graduating many of their key contributors, but it’s a problem that Buckley is used to having.
"We faced the same problem the past two years," Buckley said. I think the young guys learn from them and we’ll see how the juniors do in their new role next year. I’m excited."
At highest classification after winning back-to-back 1A/2A/3A title , Gibbons’ in-state competition stiffened this year. Now as the defending champions, the Crusaders are expecting to have a target on their back.
"It’s challenging to be the team a lot of teams are circling on their schedule," Buckley said. "But I’d rather be in that position than not be in that position. It means we’re doing something right."