In the past decade, the Lake Norman area has developed into one of the top regions in the state for soccer.
This season was no exception, as several of the top girls' teams in North Carolina - from 1A to 4A, from public to private schools - proved they were among the best on the field.
First-year Hough High not only won 22 games but got the furthest among the public schools, losing in penalty kicks to Ardrey Kell in the 4A state semifinals, going on to finish their inaugural campaign at No. 3 in the state.
Lake Norman, which tied with Hough for the I-Meck regular season title, finished No. 5 in the state after a 2-1 overtime loss in the 4A quarterfinals to the Huskies.
Never miss a local story.
Hopewell and Mooresville also had solid seasons, making the playoffs.
"I believe the I-Meck is one of the top three conferences in the state on the girls' side," said Lake Norman soccer coach Jon Mertes. "This year, the I-Meck was as tough top to bottom as it has ever been. You can't take any nights off."
Meanwhile, East Lincoln was also solid to claim another 2A Southern Piedmont Conference title. Lake Norman Charter also had its best season in school history, advancing to the third round of the 1A state playoffs.
Davidson Day's girls' soccer team may have had the best season in the area, winning the 1A NCISAA state championship, the school's first team title.
The Patriots boasted the leading scorer in the nation in senior forward Bri Wills, who notched a state-record 77 goals on the season.
SouthLake Christian also had another good season, reaching the 2A private school playoffs.
Lake Norman girls' soccer player of the year: Emily Rusk, Hough
Emily Rusk was on top of the high school soccer world in 2010, leading her North Meck team to a 4A state championship as she made the game-winning save in a shootout to give the Vikings the win.
Rusk was not only the most valuable player of the state championship but also raked in a host of other awards, including the Charlotte Observer Player of the Year.
This season, Rusk was as good, as the two time all-state player led first-year Hough to the brink of playing for a state title.
Rusk had 11 shutouts in 27 games and the Huskies gave up only 19 goals on the season.
Rusk was at her best in the playoffs, giving up only four goals in five games.
Rusk, who has already committed to play at Alabama, and her Huskies will be back for more in 2012, having no seniors on its roster. Hough will be one of the early favorites to be in the 4A championship game next spring.
Lake Norman girls' soccer coach of the year: Jon Mertes
Jon Mertes has won 86 games during the last four seasons with the Lake Norman girls' soccer team.
In that span, Mertes has led his team to three conference titles, including the I-Meck conference championship this season after going 20-2-1 (12-1-1 in I-Meck play).
The Wildcats dominated their opponents for most of the season, outscoring them 119-18, but came up just short in the 4A state quarterfinals to Hough.
While Lake Norman hasn't accomplished its ultimate goal of winning a state championship, it has done nearly everything else. Mertes gives all the credit to his players.
"A lot of our success has to with the quality level of players we get every year," he said. "Playing at Lake Norman is kind of like playing for a good club team, because that is the kind of talent we have here."
All-Lake Norman News girls' soccer team
Kendall Fischlein, Lake Norman: Sophomore had a standout season with 22 goals, 15 assists for the Wildcats.
Allison Stearns, Hough: Junior forward had 25 goals, 14 assists to lead first-year Huskies.
Bri Wills, Davidson Day: Nation's leading goal scorer had 77 goals to go along with 13 assists.
Brooke Arey, Hopewell: Senior led Titan offense, as Hopewell went 13-5 (10-4 in I-Meck).
Bethany Spano, SouthLake Christian: All-state forward was Eagles' top scorer, offensive threat.
Rina Leonidas, Lake Norman Charter: Top offensive weapon for a much-improved Knights team with 18 goals, 24 assists.
Courtney Smith, Mooresville: Blue Devil finished with school record 107 career goals, including 16 scores this year.
Hannah Robinson, Hough: All-state midfielder organized Hough attack while scoring 10 goals and recording 15 assists.
Allye Mertes, Lake Norman: UNC Wilmington signee had another all-state season for her father's team.
Taylor Waters, Lake Norman: Wake Forest commit has one more year left in high school.
Caitlyn Rodrigues, Davidson Day: SPAA player of the year had Charlotte-area best 41 assists.
Adrian Reavis, East Lincoln: Junior had 23 goals on the year, including nine game-winning scores.
Jenna Weston, Lake Norman: Sophomore had strong season, growing into a big-time college prospect.
Lindsey Byrne, Hough: Junior was an all-region performer in the back for Huskies.
Audrey Boyle, Hopewell: Titan was able to hold some of state's best forwards in check.
Erin McNaulty, North Mecklenburg: All-region defender was bright spot for struggling Vikings.
Emily Rusk, Hough: I-Meck player of the year had dominant season, allowing only 19 goals this season.