In the past five seasons, the Lake Norman boys' soccer team has won 107 games, claimed two 3A state titles and three conference championships and put together a 60-game win streak from 2006 to 2008.
The Wildcats were solid in 2009, going 14-7-2 overall and 8-4 (second place) in their first season in the I-Meck conference. But they didn't play up to their championship standards.
"We were pretty much dominant (from 2006 to 2008) with so many great players that turned out to be Division I talents, and I think it made coaching look easy," coach Jon Mertes said.
"We still have a lot of talent. Last year, we were very young and lost some close games. This year, I think all that experience will pay off," said Mertes.
A suffocating defense starts with all-region goalkeeper Nick Hensley, who has committed to UNCCharlotte. He allowed only 16 goals in 19 games last year, with 72 saves.
All four starters return on defense, led by all-region senior Marcus Lohrmann and senior Andrew Sheridan. Sophomore Ben Steen and junior Ben Herron complete a back four that will make life miserable for offenses.
"Our defense is extremely strong and talented," Mertes said. "A good defense and a great keeper can make your whole team better. I think offensively we can take chances."
At midfield, senior Nicky Rembowski, juniors Jordan Chillson and Gabe Franco and sophomore Ian Orr will start, as they did most of last season.
Up top, Lake Norman will count on senior Morgan Myslinski to move from midfield to forward, helping compensate for the loss of all-conference forward Parker Cromie. Myslinski led the Wildcats with 12 goals last year.
Before the tough I-Meck season, Lake Norman has a challenging nonconference schedule, facing 2A power South Iredell and Southwestern 4A power Myers Park the first week.