Rain still cannot stop on of the Triangle’s hottest Men’s Lacrosse teams. On the University of North Carolina’s campus, Millbrook won their fifth straight game to advance to the third round of the 4A State Playoffs for the first time in school history.
“I’ve worked too hard for the last four years to lose at this point” says senior Joe Cooper whose 56th goal of the season tied the game at 12-12 in the final minutes of regulation. With 1:27 left to play, Cooper had the ball back on his stick, and he ripped a shot past East Chapel Hill’s Vance Perkins for the game winner.
After Cruz Waerness broke the ice for the game’s first goal, East Chapel Hill responded with two of their own to take the lead. The battle of the Wildcats went back and forth as Griffin Jefferies, and Waerness started the second quarter with scores to regain an advantage at 3-2, but lead that would quickly evaporate as East Chapel Hill went up 4-3 going into halftime.
After allowing a goal forty seconds into the second half, Millbrook turned around and netted two goals to tie the game at 5-5 with just under nine minutes left in the third quarter. Joe Cooper fired a ball on net that hit the East Chapel Hill goalie, and rolled in off of his arm. Down a man, Garrett Patnesky raced to a ground ball and took it right to the frame for his first of the night.
East Chapel Hill would go back up by two at 7-5 halfway through the third. After their seventh goal, Drew Lange won a face-off forward to Eric Stieber who quickly found Cooper to make it a one goal game. East Chapel Hill followed with two more goals, the second on an illegal procedure penalty to take their biggest lead of the night, 9-6.
Down but not out, Coach Kraciuk called a timeout with 4:35 left in the third and from there, his guys turned things around to outscore their opponents 7-3 over the course of the final fifteen minutes. Cooper’s third of the night made it 9-7, then Cruz Waerness snuck around the right post and threw up a shot as he was falling to the ground to cut it to 9-8. Heading into the final quarter, Millbrook trailed 10-8.
Garrett Patnesky came alive in the final stanza as he started the fourth with a goal to make it 10-9, and nearly 90 seconds later he got right back to the front of the cage to tie things up at 10-10. Waerness responded to an East Chapel Hill score with his fourth of the night to tie the game up once more at 11-11.
Head Coach Adam Kraciuk said that, “this you got to want it mentality is really setting in with the guys. The way that they have bonded over the last few weeks has given them a killer instinct”. That killer instinct kicked in down the stretch after East Chapel Hill took a 12-11 lead with 2:54 remaining in regulation. After getting slashed in the helmet, Joe Cooper weaved his way through the defense and notched the equalizer with 2:15 left. “I knew we were going a man up with the flag, so I just focused on getting a quality scoring chance before the refs were able to blow the whistle” said Cooper.
During his historic senior season, and his illustrious four year career, Joe Cooper found himself scoring what may have been his biggest goal. With 1:27 left on the clock, Cooper faked a pass and took it right to the goal for the game winning goal. The goal was his 57th of the season, and it was the 96th of his career giving Millbrook a 13-12 advantage.
After numerous people counted out the Wildcats entering the contest, they were on top as the clock hit zero in Chapel Hill. Next up is a trip to Wilmington, NC on Tuesday night to face Hoggard High School at 7:00 PM. Millbrook enters on a five game winning streak with a 12-6 record. The Vikings come in at 16-2, and they’re ranked 6th in the state via LaxPower.com.