Tim Vorhoff was completing a routine agility drill with some lacrosse teammates and friends in 2014 when he heard a pop come from his right knee.
Vorhoff, a Charlotte Latin senior, said he had the eerily familiar feeling that he had torn his ACL – again.
Vorhoff had torn his ACL just more than six months earlier in Latin’s April 5 lacrosse match against Apex High in the Champions’ Challenge at Ardrey Kell High.
Vorhoff’s worst fears where confirmed when the Latin trainers reported almost immediately that he had torn his ACL again, in the same knee.
“It was crushing and a feeling I will never forget,” said Vorhoff, who had just completed rehabilitating his knee from the first injury. “I knew the second the (trainer) touched my knee that I had done it again.
“I remember that night, on my way home, I just drove to a parking lot and sat there. I didn’t want talk to people about it, I just wanted to be alone. It was really tough knowing my high school athletics career was over.”
But Vorhoff never quit on his teammates.
Vorhoff, who also played football, was on the sideline every game last fall and planned to find a role on the lacrosse team. He was eager to help his team, which included 22 seniors, go for its fourth straight N.C. Independent Schools Athletics Association championship.
“I never thought about not going to a practice or game, it wasn’t even an option for me in mind,” said Vorhoff, a two-year starter. “I love all of the guys on my team, and most of them I had been playing lacrosse with since the fifth grade. They are my best friends and family. I wouldn’t have missed this final season for anything.”
Charlotte Latin lacrosse coach Dick Sipperly, who had coached Vorhoff in some capacity since he was in fifth grade, immediately reached out to Vorhoff.
“I wanted Tim to still be a part of this team as much as possible,” said Sipperly. “I didn’t want him to be a team manager, because he is much more than a manager to this team.
“So I came up with the idea of him being an assistant coach.”
Vorhoff said it was a challenge at first to figure out how to coach his peers, but he got more comfortable as the season progressed. He worked with many of the less-experienced players, but also often worked “the box,” during games: the coach who coordinates constant game substitutions.
Vorhoff, 19, even made some emotional speeches to the team before games, reminding teammates of their opportunities.
“I wanted to be out there helping my team, playing lacrosse, so badly, and it wasn’t always easy watching from the sideline, so I thought it was important to remind the guys how lucky they were to be playing,” Vorhoff said. “It was especially tough in the big games, like Cardinal Gibbons (15-14 loss) and Charlotte Country Day (9-8 loss). As a player, you… want to help your team in those tight games to try to help them win.”
The Latin team was full of inspirational stories. Senior goalkeeper Emerson Schaeffer suffered a season-ending elbow injury in the loss to Country Day and was replaced by classmate Nick Wilson, who helped Latin to a 9-0 finish.
Senior Denzel Pearson, who tore his ACL in a preseason football scrimmage, returned to Latin mid-season in the Cannon School game and made a big impact.
Winning was also a major motivator for the team, as it has defined the 2015 Latin senior class, going 70-10 in its four varsity seasons.
But it was a 9-8 loss at Charlotte Country Day on April 9 that provided the inspiration for the Hawks to finish their careers in style.
“I think the Country Day loss was definitely a blessing in disguise for this team,” said Sipperly, whose senior class lost only two conference games in four years. “Right after that game, I told my assistants, ‘I think they may have woke up the dragon.’ From that point on, we were a team on a mission.”
Charlotte Latin wouldn’t lose another game all season, winning the final nine games of the season, including a 13-8 home victory against Country Day on April 28.
The Hawks rolled through the NCISAA playoff bracket, beating Greensboro Day (15-6), Christ School (18-6) and then Ravenscroft (15-10) in the state title game.
It was a fitting end for the Charlotte Latin lacrosse seniors, who didn’t lose a game on their home field during their careers.
Eight seniors – Owen Armstrong, Clifton Mathis, Jackson Monnin, John Oates, Pearson, Schaeffer, Carson Song and Vorhoff – were members of all four state championship teams.
“Winning the state championship was an incredible way to finish our Latin careers,” Vorhoff said.
“Just being a part of this team, this run is something we will remember for the rest of our lives,” he said.
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.