Coach David Smith and his Hough girls soccer team had never even played a game together before last Monday.
But the Huskies are already considered one of the top teams in the state, according to multiple media outlets, including The Charlotte Observer, where Hough is No. 8 in its preseason Sweet 16 poll.
Hough has multiple reasons for those big expectations. Those reasons start with the six former players reassigned from North Mecklenburg and Hopewell high schools, who have brought their state championship rings and experience with them.
All-state junior goalkeeper Emily Rusk, the reigning 4A state championship MVP and Observer Player of the Year, heads the group of girls who were reassigned to Hough.
All-state junior midfielder Alison Stearns and standouts Lindsey Byrne, Hannah Robinson and Alison Vest form a solid core for a first-year team that will also have former Hopewell star Brandi Arey. (Morgan Byrne, Lindsey's twin sister, is out for year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament).
So even though Hough is a new school and new team, winning will be the expectation from day one.
"Winning it all last season was great for all of the girls from North Meck," Smith said, who had been at Vance for the last 13 years. "But now, I think (winning a state championship) again is the goal. It's realistic to think we can do that in the next couple of years."
Smith's track record with the Hough soccer program is already proven, as he went on a late-season run with the boys squad, advancing all the way to the 4A state semifinals before losing to state runnerup Myers Park.
Lake Norman's girls soccer team also looks special.
The Wildcats, led by coach Jon Mertes, return nine starters from a 19-2-3 squad that advanced all the way to the state quarterfinals in 2010.
Mertes has a potent offense, led by reigning I-Meck Conference player of the year and all-state forward Taylor Waters (a Wake Forest commitment), junior Kelsey Palmer and sophomore Kendall Fischlein.
All-state Allye Mertes (a UNC Wilmington signee) and Megan Curran (a Gardner-Webb signee) will organize the midfield, while all-region junior Sydney Foushee and sophomore Jenna Weston lead the back four.
North Mecklenburg coach Neil Roberts faces one of the biggest challenges in the state after losing most of his defending state championship team to either Hough or graduation.
Early on, the Vikings will rely on their defense, which features Erin McNaulty and Megan Sullivan.
Lisa Myers, who scored the game-winning penalty kick in the state final last year, and Elena Shalon will look to spark the offense.
Gone in 27 seconds
Lake Norman senior wrestler Harrison Honeycutt waited all season for his chance to win a 4A state individual championship.
When he finally got there, it didn't take him long. The three-time state champion pinned Butler's Matthew Bennett in only 27 seconds.
Honeycutt, who is 147-1 over the last three seasons, won all four state tournament matches by pinfall. He will take his considerable talent to N.C. State starting this summer.
While most people are just getting back into the swing of things on the golf course. North Meck senior Katie Kirk has been hard at work all winter in River Run Country Club's winter program.
Kirk, ranked No. 1 in the state by Junior Golf Scoreboard and No. 2 in the state by golfweek.com, is a also rated in the top 100 in the country by both publications.
Kirk, who will attend East Carolina later this summer, was named to the all-North Carolina juniors' team for the third year in a row. She most recently finished 11th overall in the Verizon Junior Heritage at Hilton Head.