For the most of the past two months, the North Mecklenburg and Lake Norman softball teams have battled for the lead in the I-Meck conference.
North Meck won the regular-season title, and both the Vikings and the Wildcats enter the playoffs as two of the state's top teams.
North Meck (19-3 overall, 11-1 conference), No. 5 in the state, is a postseason favorite, having gone 33-13 in the past two years, including two trips to the state quarterfinals.
Lake Norman (22-2, 10-2), No. 7 in the state, will also be one of the state's playoff top contenders, even though it lost in the first round the past two seasons.
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"We need to take that next step and get to the Final Four," North Meck coach Paul Kikta said. "Then we'll take our chances once we get to Raleigh."
First-year Lake Norman coach Bob Hall has similar aspirations for his team.
"You have to look at the playoffs one game at a time, because that is what it is all about," Hall said. "But we feel like we are as good as anyone, and we can compete with any team in the state."
Both schools will lean on powerful pitching staffs in the postseason. The Vikings depend on Sara Allen and Morgan Lashley, and the Wildcats on sophomores Stacey Houser and Kayla Pine.
"Obviously, you have to score to win any game," Hall said. "But I think when have pitchers that can dominate a game, that helps a lot. It can put a lot of pressure on your opponent and take a lot off pressure of your team."
Eight Lake Norman-area girls high school soccer teams won first-round playoff game last week: Lake Norman (5-1 over Sun Valley), North Meck (3-0 over Providence), Hopewell (4-1 over Olympic), Mooresville (2-1 in overtime over Watauga), Statesville (6-0 over Hickory Ridge), Statesville Christian (4-1 over Hobgood Academy), Southlake Christian (2-0 over Asheville Christian) and Lake Norman Charter (2-0 over Elkin). This story went to press before second and later playoff rounds.
Hopewell senior Logan Harrell and North Meck junior Danny Pizetoski, the I-Meck co-golfers of the year, took top-five finishes at the 4A state golf championship Tuesday at Pinehurst No. 8.
Harrell, who has signed with South Carolina, shot a 2-under-par 142 over two days to finish third overall. Pizetoski, who is being recruited by Furman, James Madison and Virginia, finished fourth with a two-day 146 (2 over).
Both Harrell, the No. 1 junior golfer in the state, and Pizetoski now begin a busy summer Juniors schedule.
Boys basketball coach Eric Davis is leaving Hopewell to take the same job at West Brunswick High School in Shallotte, five miles from Ocean Isle Beach.
Davis, Hopewell's only coach since it opened nine years ago, was 96-19 in the past four seasons, including trips to the N.C. 4A regionals.
Langston Wertz Jr. contributed.