“Tradition never graduates.”
That was the slogan every player in the Charlotte Latin soccer program wore three years ago on their T-shirts. That was after the Hawks had won state championships in 2003 and 2004 and narrowly lost in the state final in 2005.
Will McGinnis, an incoming freshman in 2006, knew all about the history.
“I think every guy on this team wants to be a part of the championship tradition,” McGinnis said. “But it's definitely not going to be given to you. You have to get there step by step and earn it.”
After struggling through an 8-7-5 season his freshman year, McGinnis and company made big strides in 2007. The Hawks went 12-3-4 on their way to winning a conference championship and advancing to the state semifinals.
“I think some of these guys have gotten a taste of what it is like to play for a state championship, to play on that level,” Charlotte Latin coach Lee Horton said. He has coached the boys' program to 307 wins and six state championships in 23 years.
“But they haven't gotten to make their own mark.”
This year, Latin is ranked No. 1 in the state and is off to the best start since its championship runs. Latin (10-2) has beaten seven teams ranked in the top 15 in their respective classes.
“We have had a really young team that has had to learn a lot on the field for the last two seasons,” McGinnis said. “Now, we're starting to play up to the level that we expect.”
McGinnis, now a junior co-captain, led the team in scoring his freshman and sophomore seasons, and he is leading again. He has 10 goals, including the game-winner in overtime to beat No. 3 Wesleyan Christian Academy in the Ravenscroft tournament.
“Will has been a very good player since he stepped on the field at Latin,” Horton said. “But I think he is taking his game to another level.”
One reason McGinnis says he improved is his teammates. Freshman sensation Brandon Jordi, who shares the team goal lead with McGinnis, has been a welcome addition. Alex Wilson leads the team with seven assists.
“Scoring more goals takes a lot of pressure off the whole team,” McGinnis said. “We have so many weapons on this team even off the bench. I think every player on our team looks better because of the talent we have as a group.”
Horton says defending national champion Wake Forest and Elon are showing interest in McGinnis.
“My goal is definitely to play college soccer at the best place I can play,” McGinnis said. “But I still have a lot of time to do all that.”