North Mecklenburg's girls' soccer team was dominant on the field this season. The Vikings were 11-0-1 in the new I-Meck conference this season.
The team's success is due in large part to the depth and talent on their roster. Coach Neil Roberts said he's seen his team, especially his seniors, grow tremendously in the past couple of years.
"It was raw talent, but they've come together and been great leaders and learned how to play team soccer," he said.
The team beat Wilmington Hoggard Saturday night for the state championship.
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Roberts added he's been impressed by the way his team performed this season.
"They've done a superior job," he said. "Not only have they answered the bell, but they've also weathered the storm when we've had some lows in the season, so I'm extremely proud of them."
Senior forward Katherine Rusk said this has been her favorite version of the Vikings she's played for, not only because they've made it further than they ever have in the playoffs but because the team has been ready to play the entire season.
"That excitement propelled us forward," she said. "I think the pressure has helped us this year because we all know that it's now or never."
The Vikings were among the favorites to take the state title at the beginning of the season. Going into last week's state semifinal, North Meck was ranked fourth in the state.
Senior Emily Archer said their success is also due to how close the team has become. "I think we've become best friends," she said.
Roberts said he didn't have to motivate his team much as the playoffs got under way.
"They did a good job explaining to the rest of the team how quickly it ends," said Roberts.
Roberts said his team is highly-motivated and that near the end of the season he was in more of a guiding role, rather than having to push his team to work hard.
"The competition has motivated this team all year long," he said.
Emily Rusk, the starting goalkeeper, said she has felt pressure because it comes with the positions she plays.
"When I go out there and it's 0-0, I feel like it's my duty to keep it a shot out," she said. "The whole team works hard to keep the goals out of the net and finish on the chances we get."
Roberts said that North Meck's success has been due to its "aggressive, bend-but-don't-break defense" and to the Emily's good goalkeeping. But offensively, the team has also excelled.
The team's most impressive playoff win arguably came against Lake Norman, who the Vikings have quickly developed a rivalry with in the first year of the I-Meck.
The Vikings tied 1-1 during the team's first meeting and went on to take their second meeting 2-1. But in the fourth round of the playoffs, they overpowered the Wildcats, who were ranked ninth in the state, 5-1.
Katherine Rusk said that win showed how the team has improved through the season.
"I think it speaks a lot about our attitude as a team," she said. "We came out very physical against Lake Norman."
The Vikings will lose a lot of talent for next year. Six of its players will graduate. Emily Rusk, who has impressed many on the goal by only allowing 12 goals this season (as of May 26), will be one of the players who will be moving to Hough High in the fall.
"It's going to be different around here next year," said Roberts.