The Lake Norman girls' soccer team came up one goal short of a chance at the state championship this season. Only 11/2 months removed from that loss, the Wildcats are already talking about winning it all next year.
“I think we will have our best shot we've ever had to win a state title,” said Lake Norman coach Jon Mertes, whose team lost 2-1 to T.C. Roberson in the state semifinals. “It's hard to say that everything is going to fall in place. But I think we have got all the pieces.”
Lake Norman, which had a school-record 24 wins this season, will be led by all-state senior midfielder Sarah Tang.
Tang, however, will be able to move to forward because of the return of Tia King, who moved to Mississippi with her family last year, but will be back at Lake Norman for 2008-09 to play center midfield.
King, who has already committed to play soccer for the University of Alabama on a full scholarship, will follow in the footsteps of her sister, Kelly, who also played for the Wildcats. Kelly King will be a sophomore on Alabama's women's' soccer team this year.
“We're extremely excited about (Tia) coming back,” Mertes said. “I think it allows us to move some people around and get a great player back in the lineup.”
Lake Norman will not be short of talented players, as all-region seniors Tara Johnson and Meghan Kos return to anchor the defense.
Meanwhile, rising sophomores Jackie Weston, Lizzie Graham and Alex Mertes, Jon's daughter, will help spark the offense along with senior Hannah Graham.
Rising sophomores Kalin Harrison and Ashleigh Powell will share goalkeeping duties.
“We're still going to play a lot of younger girls,” said Mertes, who added that a lot of his younger girls have played well for club teams.
No matter how good they are, Lake Norman will be hard-pressed to match last year's 24-2-1 team, which outscored its opponents 112-11. The Wildcats also set a school record with 13 wins in a row.
“I think we'll be one of the top teams in the state,” Mertes said.
“It always comes down to the last two or three games. Then, you've got be lucky and good. We've just got to hope this (year) it goes our way.”
Former Statesville Christian star Doneal Mack is transferring from Memphis after being upset about his playing time. Mack, a sophomore on the national runner-up Tigers' basketball team, averaged 12.5 minutes this season.
Mack's former high school coach at Statesville Christian, John Jordan, says he has given Mack and his father his opinion on the transfer.
“I would really like to see Mack go to Clemson,” said Jordan, who now coaches at Veritas Christian Academy. “I really like Coach (Oliver) Purnell and his staff, and feel Doneal would give them something they don't have already.”
Mack is considering Clemson as well as Louisiana State and Wake Forest.
Three Lake Norman area players were selected to play in the East-West all-star game in Greensboro July 23. North Meck kicker Justin Matis and wide receiver Josh Yost as well as Statesville defensive back William Marion will play in the game.