A year removed from an overtime loss to Lake Norman in the 2015 N.C. High School Athletic Association State Championship, Cardinal Gibbons kept this year’s match-up to 50 minutes in an 18-14 win to claim its first state title in school history.
Erica Skowron was named most valuable player after leading all participants with eight goals and two assists.
“It feels really good to win. After four years, we’ve gotten one step closer to this game and it feels good to tie a bow as I end my career in high school,” she said.
Gibbons raced out to a 3-0 lead that Lake Norman cut to 6-4 before the Crusaders went on a 4-0 run to end the first half thanks to goals from Skowron, Jordan Lappin, Elizabeth Wilson and Forbes Collier.
To start the second half, Lake Norman scored three straight goals and dominated possession as Elena Dworschak lost only three draws.
After back-to-back Wildcat goals cut the deficit to 15-14 with 7:50 to go, Gibbons coach Patricia Alexander called a timeout to remind her team of how far they’d come.
“I just wanted to make sure our girls realized they were the better team and keep their composure,” Alexander said. “Sometimes these moments get so big that you forget you’ve been winning the entire game.”
The Crusaders responded, with Cassie New sparking a 3-0 run to end the game.
“Defensively, they started to get in our heads … and then we focused on playing our game and not letting them dictate the score,” Gibbons defender Sydney Anderson said.
This year’s graduating class has only lost eight games over its four years at Gibbons, but this team was the first unbeaten squad in school history.
“I think this year’s team is more complete than in the past. Gibbons has always been incredibly talented, but we’ve never been able to get it done,” Morgan Cody said. “I think it’s a real testament to this team of how we were able to come together as a unit and make something special happen.”
After last year’s heartbreaking 17-15 loss, Alexander didn’t need to find ways to her girls motivated.
She said: “They were hungry, they didn’t need to be motivated, just softly guided. They were hungry and wanted to end the season just like they started.”
Skowron, Morgan Winstead, Lappin, Wilson, Collier and New all scored for the Crusaders. Gabby Young recorded seven saves.