The only returning all-region player for Lake Norman's soccer team, center midfielder Jordan Chillson, is aiming high when it comes to his senior season.
The Wildcat co-captain not only wants his team to improve on last year's 16-3-4 season (8-3-3 in I-Meck play) but also isn't shying away from his personal expectation - to be named all-state.
After a standout season last year, Chillson is capable of reaching his goal. But he knows it will take hard work and that he can't accomplish it without his teammates.
"I'm going to need their help," the 17-year-old said.
Chillson likes to have the ball at his feet, controlling the pace of the game for the Wildcats, but instead of focusing on scoring he aims to put his teammates in good positions near the opponent's net.
Although Chillson admits he would rather set up a teammate than score himself, he had 14 goals last season to go with five assists.
Lake Norman coach Jon Mertes said Chillson stands out because of his good vision, quickness and technical talent.
"He's a crafty midfielder who leaves everything he has on the field," said Mertes. "He's one of those kids who loves the game and plays for the love of the game. That shows on the field."
That attitude and unselfish style of play makes it easy for teammates to look up to Chillson. "The other players feed off of him," said Mertes.
After Chillson played for the North Mecklenburg Soccer Club's U.S. Academy team in the offseason, Mertes said, he's improved.
Chillson also said training during the demanding eight-month club season has paid off. Aside from his speed and ball control, he said, his biggest improvement has been learning to turn with the ball.
The Wildcat talent doesn't stop with Chillson. All 18 teammates have club experience; more than half of them also play at the academy level.
"There's not anybody better than the rest," said Chillson. "When you come off the field, the person that comes on is going to pick up the intensity."
Mertes agreed, explaining that, in addition to a 15-man senior class, it's one of the team's strengths.
"Usually teams have one or two players that really stand out above the others, but that's not so on this team," he said.
Despite their talent, Mertes said, the Wildcat's success this year depends heavily on how members adapt on the field and mentally prepare for games after losing skilled players like defender Marcus Lohrmann, midfield Nick Rembowski, forward Morgan Myslinski and all-state goalkeeper Nick Hensley.
Chillson isn't worried about that. He said he's seen a lot of focus and determination among his fellow Wildcats this summer.
The midfield could be the strength of the team. Chillson said the core of that group has played together for the past few years, creating a bond.
"We know what the other's one thinking without having to say anything," said Chillson. "Once you start knowing how people play, you sort of connect."
Mertes said if Lake Norman plays together as a team it will have a good shot at repeating as I-Meck champion. But he warned the Wildcats will have to improve their creativity in the attacking third to do so. That's where forwards Joe Marshall, a senior committed to Wofford, and Austin Stevens, a sophomore, will be expected to step up.
Chillson expects the Wildcats to go far in the postseason after being upset by a breakout Hough team in the second round of the 4A playoffs last year.
"It's going to be a hard, long road, but I think this team is capable of going to the state championship," he said. "We want it enough."