May 24, 2014
The Cardinal Gibbons men’s lacrosse team accomplished something Saturday that many set out to do, but few achieve: perfection.
With their 11-8 victory over Marvin Ridge in the N.C. High School Athletics Association 1A/2A/3A championship game, the Crusaders completed the school’s first undefeated season with a 22-0 record.
Once the final whistle sounded, the white and green clad players littered the field at WakeMed Soccer Park with helmets and sticks in jubilation and soon later, many of them were in the stands hoisting the championship plaque high above their heads.
“They earned this. They earned all of it,” said first-year coach Alex Buckley, who gave credit to his predecessor and the pioneer of Cardinal Gibbons lacrosse, Mike Curatolo. “Obviously, this is Mike Curatolo’s program and I’m very fortunate and privileged to have control of it now. This is for him and for the kids.”
The Crusaders relentlessly attacked Mavericks’ (18-2) senior goaltender Reilly McDermott, who made an astounding 19 saves to garner most valuable player honors, on their way to 43 shots attempted.
“They are a really good offensive team. They have a lot of weapons up top and from behind,” McDermott told reporters. “It was tough to take all of them.”
Senior attacker Gannon Morrison netted a team-high three goals, including the eventual game-winner – an unassisted marker that he scored after deflecting a pass and gaining a ground ball – in the fourth quarter of his final high school contest.
“(McDermott) was unbelievable … so we had to hit corners on him or else he’s saving it,” Morrison said while holding the state championship trophy. “To be the first team that goes undefeated at Cardinal Gibbons I think is such a big honor.”
Freshman midfielder Charles Van Dyke was among the four Crusaders to turn in multi-goal performances, albeit much of the scoring chances were self-created – eight of the team’s 11 goals were unassisted, including the first seven scored.
In addition to the large discrepancy in shots, Cardinal Gibbons owned a substantial edge in face-offs as well, thanks in large part to the efforts of junior Stephen Albright, who had double-figure draw wins.
On the flip side, junior attacker Jared Blum provide the bulk share of the Mavericks’ offense that kept them in striking distance for most of the game. He scored the team’s first three goals and had a hand in the fourth – assisting on Jack Rich’s tally to put Marvin Ridge in front 4-3 with 2:11 left until halftime – but Cardinal Gibbons always had an answer.
Sophomore Kevin Barry tied the game a minute later and both teams entered the locker room tied, 4-4. The Crusaders had 13 shots on goal at this point and McDermott nine saves.
Despite being overwhelmingly outshot, Marvin Ridge still continued to believe and took the lead back on Shane Hanlon’s goal 38 seconds into the second half.
But in the end, Cardinal Gibbons’ attack proved to be too much and the Mavericks began to fold defensively. Providing constant pressure, the Crusaders notched the next four goals and six of the next seven to decide the game.
The 2014 state championship is the second title in program history and the first under the NCHSAA sanction.
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