The Lake Norman boys' soccer team is used to winning championships.
In the past four seasons, the Wildcats have won 96 games against only 10 losses and three ties, including three conference titles and two state championships. They've also won 45 of their 51 August and September games; and three losses and two ties came in 2009.
Last season, despite finishing 14-7-2 overall and 8-4 in the I-Meck 4A Conference, the Wildcats did not live up to their own high standards.
"Year in and year out, you can see our players have sense of responsibility to try and live up to the standards we've created here," said Lake Norman coach Jon Mertes. "Last year we were very young, and we struggled compared to what we've done in the past."
So far this season, however, Lake Norman is back to its winning ways, going 5-0-1, and outscoring its opponents 18-2.
The defense has been stout; both goals against came on penalty kicks. Senior goalkeeper Nick Hensley, who has committed to UNC Charlotte, has anchored that effort.
The balanced offense is led by senior forward Morgan Myslinski, freshman forward Austin Stevens and junior midfielder Jordan Chillson.
"We have really had a total team effort so far this season," Mertes said. "I feel very good about where this team is right now. I think we are hungry to prove that we can get back to where we've been in the past."
Lake Norman is focused on its nonconference schedule now, but its main regular-season goal is to win the I-Meck. That effort starts Sept. 13, when they visit defending champion North Mecklenburg.
The Lake Norman girls' tennis team also is off to a 5-0 start. The Wildcats, who went 12-4 last year and won the I-Meck, have rolled so far this year, beating a opponents by a combined 40 matches to four.
Leaders have been seniors Morgan Vlaich and Regan Patterson and junior Britta Huibers.
Hitting their stride
The Hopewell volleyball team is off to a 9-0 start. The Titans, who have beaten perennial 4A powers Providence and Myers Park, are led by senior Hannah Early (65 kills, 21 digs, 21 blocks) and Adrian Eppley (153 assists).
The Titans host the first meeting of the I-Meck's top two teams: a showdown against Lake Norman Tuesday.
Lake Norman is 7-1 after beating defending I-Meck champion North Meck 3-0 Tuesday. Senior captain Molly Cotten leads the Wildcats with 55 kills.
The Hopewell-Lake Norman match won't be the only big game this Tuesday. Hough High volleyball coach Sandi Skidmore, who was North Meck's coach for the past 11 years, returns to take on the Vikings Tuesday as well.
On the fast track
Hopewell senior track star Anthony Bynum is being recruited by North Carolina, N.C. State, South Carolina, LSU, Notre Dame, Auburn and Texas A&M, among others.
Bynum, who also starts in for the football team at cornerback and kick returner, won the 100- and 200-meter dashes at last year's 4A West Regional meet and finished second in the 200 and fourth in the 100 at the state meet.