Clark lives up to his reputation in the goal
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Tuesday, May. 13, 2014

Clark lives up to his reputation in the goal

Before Michael Clark ever started a varsity game for the Lake Norman Charter lacrosse team, he had a reputation to live up to.

His older brother, John, not only helped start the Knights’ varsity program but also was an all-conference goalkeeper, tending the net for the Lake Norman Charter varsity team for first four years of its existence, 2009-12.

After sitting behind and learning from his older brother for his first two high school seasons, Michael picked up where John left off last season, moving into the same position, as his elder brother moved on to the University of South Carolina, where he plays club lacrosse.

Michael Clark didn’t waste any time establishing himself as a player in his own right last year, notching 171 saves, including nine double-digit performances to earn all-conference and all-region honors in the process.

“Having my reputation precede him was something he’s been going through as a younger brother his whole life,” said John Clark, who stands 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, while Michael is 5-foot-7, 160 pounds.

“So, I don’t think it really bothered him a lot. In fact, I think it motivated him even more because everything is a competition between us. My parents will try to say it isn’t (a competition). But, Michael and I know it is, in a way only brothers can totally understand.”

While Michael says he also enjoys the sibling rivalry, he also was eager to make a name for himself.

“I learned just about everything I know about being a goalkeeper from John, and we still talk all the time,” said Michael Clark, alluding to the regular email/phone conversations. “For a long time, everyone knew me because of John and what he had done on the field. But now people are starting to recognize me for me, instead of being John’s brother. I definitely like being Michael again.”

Michael Clark has been even better this year as a senior, as he has already notched 132 saves, saving 60.5 percent of the shots on goal, while limiting the Knights’ opponents to 6.8 scores per game.

Clark, 18, has come up big on a regular basis, with 20 saves in the season-opening, 10-9 win over Charlotte Country Day, 13 saves in a victory over rival Hough and 15 saves in a recent triumph over Community School of Davidson.

“Michael has continued to be a rock for us on the back,” Lake Norman Charter lacrosse coach Matt Wiehl said. “He’s been the anchor of our defense since he stepped right in after his brother. It gives you a huge advantage when you know you have a great goalkeeper that you can trust.”

Clark’s biggest games this season have come in the biggest moments for his team, all within eight days.

First, he had 14 saves to help Lake Norman Charter knock off No. 6 Christ School on his class’s senior night, on April 22.

But he may have saved the best for his final regular-season game, when Clark had 13 saves as Lake Norman Charter beat Lake Norman for the first time in school history, at sanctioned varsity level, in a game that decided the Conference 10 title on April 30.

While his numbers have been great, Clark says the most important statistic this season has been his team’s 14-1 record, including 4-1 in conference play.

“We’ve had certain goals for a long time, really ever since I’ve been here,” Michael Clark said. “To beat Lake Norman and to win a conference title were the main two goals. To do that in one game was a huge deal. Everybody wanted to beat them; we were getting calls and texts from friends on the CSD and Hough teams, saying, ‘make sure you beat them.’

While we’ve had a year full of firsts; everything we have accomplished is because of our overall team focus. You can’t just stop 1-2 guys anymore and beat us.”

While Clark and the core of his defense, including seniors Wes Smith and Truman Spittel, junior Griffin Stechmiller and freshman Liam Huddy, have been stingy all year, the Knights’ potent offense has also played a major role in their success.

The offense, which averages 15 goals per game, gets big contributions from all over, including seniors Petey Fabian (41 goals 28 assists), Chase Burton, Hudson Harris and Blythe Tegland, junior Luke Koferl (35 goals) and sophomore Zach Defazio (54 goals), to name a few.

“The strength of this team is that we know that, in any given game, there are a lot more guys who can step up and make plays for us on both offense and defense,” Michael Clark said. “It’s not like it has been in the past, where teams would say, ‘Stop Jake Koferl, get past John Clark and you can beat them.’ It’s much tougher to stop us and to beat us now.”

The 2014 Lake Norman Charter team is No. 12 in the state overall and No. 5 in the public school poll, according to laxpower.com. While the team has accomplished a lot in the best season in school history to this point, the players hope there are more big wins to come.

This Knights’ team also has a chance to become to first in (lacrosse) program history advance past the second round of the playoffs, after getting a first round bye in the 1A/2A/3A bracket.

“It’s been great to accomplish a lot of things for the first time and feel like we are finally getting some of the recognition that we wanted for so long,” Michael Clark said. “But we feel like we can do even more.”

No matter how his Lake Norman Charter lacrosse career ends, Clark, who boasts a 5.0 grade-point-average, will take his academic and athletic talents to the University of Central Florida, where plans on majoring in political science and hopes one day to become a lawyer.

Clark also wants to play club lacrosse at Central Florida.

In the true spirit of the Clark sibling rivalry, John, as a member of the South Carolina club team, hopes to get one more shot at his younger brother.

“It was great to be a part of all the success that the Lake Norman Charter lacrosse team had early on,” John Clark said. “But Michael’s team took that legacy a step further and were able to do some things like winning a conference title, beating Lake Norman, etc. that I wished I could have done.

“So if Michael plays at Central Florida, I might get one more shot at beating him and getting some bragging rights.”

Story went to print before Lake Norman Charter-Marvin Ridge game on May 13. Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at jedwardsjr23@gmail.com.

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