Charlotte Catholic girls' lacrosse coach Dee Bier counts her years as coach of the Cougars in championships lost.
In her first year, 2007, Catholic lost in the quarterfinals of the N.C. High School Women's Lacrosse Association tournament. The next two years, the Cougars made it to the NCHSWLA finals but lost to Apex both times.
After last year, Bier hopes to be able to start counting in championships won.
The Cougars girls' lacrosse team won the state title last year, the first time it was sanctioned by the N.C. High School Athletic Association. Now they're looking to repeat, despite losing nine of 12 starters from last year's squad.
"It was fantastic," Bier said of last year's 12-11 win against Wilmington Hoggard in the NCHSAA championship game. "It was one of those things that even after it happened I wasn't really sure that I could let myself get excited about it."
That team, which finished the season 18-2, was led by a strong senior class that included five first-team all-conference players: Catherine Ellis, Carley Flynn, Cait Baker, Lindsey Walters and Bridget Hogan. Ellis scored 85 goals her senior year and also was a US Lacrosse All-American Honorable Mention last season.
Senior Hayley Hinson, also named all-conference last year and one of three team captains this year, said it was important for the team to win last year for those seniors.
"They deserved it for sure," she said. "They've been working so hard."
But with all those seniors gone, new players will be forced to compensate.
"A lot of girls that were on the team last year are stepping up this year," said Maggie Riney, a senior captain. "We know we lost a lot of people, so everyone knows they really need to step up."
Despite what the team lost, Bier points to captains Riney, Hinson and Jena Ready - who also was all-conference last year - as a new wave of talent to lead the Cougars.
"It's devastating (losing the seniors). We miss those girls," said Bier.
"I guess the best part is the girls that I have now, while they're a little younger, they had to guard Carley Flynn and Catherine Ellis and Cait Baker every day. They couldn't wait for their turns. They're ... excited to get a little more playing time that they earned."
Bier will look to Ready, who scored four goals in last year's title game, to be the main goal scorer.
"She's competitive. She wants to win. She'll do everything she can," said Bier.
Ready plans to play at Presbyterian College next year, where she will join Ellis, Hogan and former Cougar Lauren Lefeber.
Hinson will play midfield, and Bier described Riney as the "anchor on defense." With three senior captains spread out across the field, Bier said she feels good about the team.
"It's exciting to have them all over the field," she said. "If I can rely on Jena on the attack and Haley to run that midfield, and Maggie to anchor that defense, we're pretty good."
Bier also expects sophomore attacker Katie Riddle and sophomore Perri Strassner to play important roles this year.
Despite the number of new faces in the starting lineup, the captains aren't worried. Ready said Catholic had lost large numbers of seniors before and still played well.
"It doesn't mean much to us," she said.
Added Hinson, "We're getting closer and learning how each other plays, so I think we'll be fine."
After coming so close their first two years, the senior captains said it felt great to win the state championship.
And now that they know what it takes, they're ready to do it again this year.
"We all want it really badly," said Ready.
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