The Lake Norman-area boys' soccer teams began the season expecting to field some of the best teams in the state.
From Iredell to Lincoln County, few teams disappointed, as the region again produced top teams across the state's classifications and among public and private schools.
Hough, in its second year as a program, had the best regular season, going 19-1-2, including 13-0-1 in conference play to win the I-Meck. But the Huskies, who spent most of the year near the top of Observer Sweet 16 and state rankings, were upset in the first round of the playoffs by Ardrey Kell.
Lake Norman (20-3-4 overall, 12-1-1 I-Meck) was right on Hough's heels all season, tying and losing to Hough in two dramatic regular season meetings. But the Wildcats, who finished No. 5 in the state, fared best in the playoffs, going to the 4A state quarterfinals before losing to T.C. Roberson.
East Lincoln (17-7-2) also had a standout season, winning the Southern Piedmont Conference and advancing to the 2A state quarterfinals before being eliminated by Shelby in a 2-1 overtime finish.
Lake Norman Charter (16-4-2) had a big season in its first year in the SPC, finishing second to East Lincoln in conference play and advancing to the third round of the playoffs, where it lost to Hendersonville.
Davidson Day had its best year in school history, finishing 13-4-2 overall and No. 10 in the state, after losing in the first round of the playoffs.
Lake Norman Player of the Year
Nathaniel Goodwin, Hough: Goodwin and his Hough High team came into the season with big expectations as his team went to the 4A state semifinals in their first season as a program.
While they were disappointed in their final game, a first round playoff loss to Ardrey Kell, Goodwin and Hough lived up to the hype with 19 wins and an I-Meck title while spending most of the season as No. 1 in the Observer Sweet 16.
Goodwin was a huge part of their success, as the senior forward notched 24 goals and 14 assists, despite missing five games with an injury.
Goodwin earned all-I-Meck, all-region and all-state honors for his play and was named I-Meck Player and Region 10 Player of the Year.
Goodwin, who also stars on his North Meck Academy club team, is headed to UNC Wilmington to continue his soccer career.
Lake Norman Coach of the Year
Jon Mertes, Lake Norman: For a little more than a month last summer, Jon Mertes decided he would step down as the Lake Norman boys' soccer coach to concentrate on his company, Ryan Medical LLC, and the Wildcats' girls' soccer team.
But when the season approached, and the job stayed open, Mertes felt that he was the best man for the job.
Mertes was glad he returned, and Lake Norman, which spent most of the year in state's top 10, had another great year, with 20 wins and a state quarterfinal appearance to show for it.
Mertes and company should be strong again next year; all-region players like Austin Stevens and Ben Steen will be back to lead a talented, Wildcat team in 2012.
All Lake Norman Boys' Soccer Team
Forward: Nathaniel Goodwin, Hough - all-state, I-Meck, Region 10 Player of the Year headed to UNC Wilmington.
Forward: Tanner Roberts, Hough - freshman exploded on the scene with 17 goals, 12 assists, all-I-Meck, all-region pick.
Forward: Austin Stevens, Lake Norman - all-region junior led team with 12 assists.
Forward: C.J. Bradley, Davidson Day - SPAA Conference Player of the Year had 25 goals as a freshman.
Forward/Midfielder: Ty Haddock, Mooresville - Blue Devil earned all-state with 15 goals, six assists, committed to Catawba.
Midfielder: Jordan Chillson, Lake Norman - all-state midfielder does a little bit of everything for Wildcats.
Midfielder: Santiago Patino, Hough - all-state, senior leader fought through injuries and still had 11 goals, 10 assists.
Midfielder: Breck Collins/Rolando Miranda, East Lincoln (tie) - both Mustang midfielders had all-region seasons.
Midfielder: Tommy Mikuleza, Lake Norman Charter - all-state junior led team in goals, now hopes to make them a bigger factor in playoffs.
Midfielder: Ian Orr, Lake Norman - led the Wildcats with 17 goals from the midfield.
Defender: Justin Williams, East Lincoln - two-time all-state defender can play anywhere, according to Mustangs' Coach Jason Dragoon.
Defender: Ben Steen, Lake Norman - the leader of stingy Wildcats' defense, according to Mertes.
Defender: Mace Timberlake, Hough - all-region senior was backbone of Husky defense with Bradley.
Goalkeeper: Jaron Bradley, Hough - all-state goalkeeper had four shutouts and was big in key moments.