The 2010 Lake Norman softball squad knew it had all the talent to be a great team. But to live up to that billing on the field, first-year head coach Bob Hall knew he had to persuade his players to buy into the team concept.
Fourteen wins and one loss later, Hall and the Wildcats have proved they are not only one of the best area teams but also one of the state's best.
The Wildcats, No. 7 in the state in this week's N.C. Softball Coaches' poll, have beaten some of Charlotte's best, including Hopewell (9-8), North Iredell (10-5, 9 innings) and North Mecklenburg (1-0) in tight games in the last month. Their only loss came to archrival Mooresville (3-2).
"I think the biggest key to this is that we have a lot of girls who want to win more than anything else," Hall said. "These girls will play wherever I ask them to and bat wherever they need to. They are focused on getting better and winning, and that is why we have been so good."
Seven batters are hitting above or around .400, including Chloe Archer (.442), Shelby Bailey (.462), Stacey Houser (.467), Mariah McGuffey (.463), Kayla Pine (.486), Dominique Wilson (.488) and Arin Hall (.388).
The Wildcats have been just as good in the batter's box as on the mound. The offense starts with a team batting average that exceeds .400.
The Wildcats also have four legitimate starting pitchers, each with more than two wins, including Pine (4-1), Houser (3-0), Archer (2-0) and Wilson (2-0).
Lake Norman does all this with a starting lineup that includes three freshmen, three sophomores, one junior and only two seniors.
"We still have a very young team," Hall said. "The biggest thing for us right now is to build confidence and learn how to finish games."
It hasn't been perfect, but the Lake Norman girls' soccer team has been close, going 11-0-2 overall and 5-0-1 in the conference (before last week's game), outscoring opponents 63-4 this season. The Wildcats, No. 8 in the state, have won seven games in a row by a combined 38-0.
Sophomore Taylor Waters has 14 goals to lead the team in scoring, while Jackie Weston is tops with seven assists.
Just Kicking It
North Meck (7-3, 5-0-1) is tied atop the I-Meck standings with Lake Norman (as of Wednesday after beating Hopewell 5-0 behind Allison Stearns' two goals.
After dominating most of its competition at 9-1-1 overall and 6-0 in the North Piedmont Conference, Statesville, ranked No. 4 in the state is also atop the NPC.
Southlake Christian is still perfect at 10-0. The Eagles, No. 4 in the state (private), have outscored opponents 42-5. Southlake gets its biggest test Friday at No. 1 Charlotte Latin.
Hopewell's Logan Harrell and North Meck's Danny Pizetoski were named co-most valuable players of the I-Meck conference in golf. Both schools also qualified for the regional meet as teams.