South Charlotte

Bucs' seniors made most of 4-year title run

Faith, family, academics, lacrosse.

That has been the mantra of the Charlotte Country Day boys' lacrosse team for years.

The philosophy obviously has worked for the Buccaneers, who have appeared in 20 state championship games and won eight state titles in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association and nine overall.

The last time they missed the title game, in 1993, most of the boys on the team weren't born yet.

The members of the Buccaneers' senior class have seen new levels of success during their four years. The team has made it to the title game each season, and each season the Bucs have won.

Country Day finished 16-5 this year, sweeping rivals Providence Day and Charlotte Latin two times apiece in the regular season. The Bucs defeated Charlotte Latin a third time in the semifinals, 7-4, before defeating Durham Academy 13-6 on May 21.

But the team didn't get to the top without some bumps along the way.

In 2009, the team lost former lacrosse player Will Froelich, who died in a golf cart accident three months after his high school graduation.

In August, Sam Cook, the Buccaneers junior varsity football coach and a big supporter of the lacrosse team, died. Cook coached a number of the lacrosse players in football, and losing him hit the team hard, said lacrosse coach Brad Touma.

"That weighed heavy on our hearts this year," Touma said.

Senior All-American lacrosse player Thomas Passenant said the players wore Cook's initials on their helmets all season. They also put his old number on the field.

"He used to sit in the same spot every day for I don't even know how many years," Passenant said. "We put a 32 in that spot and that's kind of where he sits, even still."

Passenant said the team became a more tightly knit group during a distracting time. Leaning on each other helped, he said, because every state title became more difficult to win.

"It's hard to even play for one, let alone four," Passenant said.

Senior Alex Teller said the Buccaneers have been able to sustain their success by hard work, dedication and quiet leadership.

Teller said he realized his impact when he received a note from fourth-grader Jordan Cave, son of Teller's English teacher, Stephanie Cave.

Teller met Jordan through Bowtie Club, whose members open the doors in the mornings for lower school students.

"He figured out that I'm No. 22 on the lacrosse team," Teller said. "He really wanted to come out and watch me play in the state championship.

"Coach Touma brought him a lacrosse stick, so he's going to play now."

With the loss of 12 seniors to graduation, the Buccaneers will have to see underclassmen like sophomore Michael Radford lead the team next year.

"I'm just going to have to try and help the younger classmen understand what they have to do ... just give it all I can, and hopefully they'll follow," Radford said.