When you think of the great rivalries in local high school sports, the Charlotte Country Day-Charlotte Latin grudge match is near the top of the list in almost every sport.
When the Bucs and Hawks come to mind, people usually point to the gridiron, the basketball court or the soccer field; however, one of the best and most accomplished rivalries between the two happens in field hockey. Latin and Country Day have been perennial state title contenders for more than a decade.
Either Latin or Country Day has been in the state final for the last eight years, with the Hawks winning one title (2010) and the Bucs three (2005, 2007, 2009) during that span.
Latin and Country Day have met in the state final twice in the last four seasons (2007, 2009), with the Bucs beating the undefeated Hawks in the final in 2009.
"We all get along off the field, and most of the players are friends, neighbors, or know each other," Charlotte Latin field hockey coach Deb Savino said. "But when they step on the field, for a few hours it's a battle. Everybody wants to win."
Charlotte Latin got the best of the rivalry last year with a perfect 21-0 record, including its first NCISAA championship in its fourth appearance in the finals.
The Hawks were dominant, outscoring opponents 102-5 for the season. With 10 senior starters returning, including all-state forwards Mia Kane, Callie Kennedy and Evy Royther, midfielder Caroline Kelly (all-state) and goalkeeper Myers McGarry (all-state), there is no reason to think the Hawks won't be back in the finals.
Country Day, which was 12-5 last year and advanced to the state semifinals, also will be one of the top teams, with all-state attacker Caroline Plyler and midfielder Esty Byrd, both seniors, leading the way.
"I think being a part of the Country Day field hockey team is something our players take a lot of pride in," Country Day coach Lisa Thompson said. "We talk about all the players who have come before us and all the players that will come after us. We are carrying the torch, and we have to keep the tradition strong."
While Latin and Country Day's success has raised the sport's profile in Charlotte, the Charlotte field hockey club team - started several years ago and coached by Providence Day coach Miki Osherow - has also been huge for the sport in allowing players to play year-round nationwide.
"Field hockey in Charlotte and North Carolina is better than ever," Savino said. "A lot of that has to with the club opportunities."
On the Charlotte field hockey club, players from Latin, Country Day, Providence Day and others play on the same team, creating bonds between high school rivals. The bonds don't always last during high school game days, however, when teammates become opponents.
"Myers McGarry (Latin) was just talking to Caroline Plyler (Country Day) the other day at club practice," Savino said. "She looked at Caroline and said, 'I really like hanging out with you, but in few weeks I'm going to have to hate you.' "
All joking aside, the rivalry between families who live near each other, go to the same churches and even work together, is intense.
"Regardless of the sport, every Latin-Country Day game is a huge event," said Thompson, saying around 500 people attended the last game.