South Charlotte

Cougars aiming for another state championship

Last year, Charlotte Catholic girls' soccer coach Gary Hoilett said he thought his team was at least a year away from winning the state championship.

He was wrong.

The Cougars went 22-2-3 and won the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A state title 2-1 over Cardinal Gibbons, the program's third championship. Catholic relied on youth last year and only lost two starters to graduation.

So how does Hoilett feel about his team this year?

"I go into this one feeling the same for the same reason," he said. "The dynamics of every single team changes from year to year."

Two things haven't changed for the Cougars: Jane Cline will lead the offense and Morgan Luckie will lead the defense.

Cline, a junior, is a three-year varsity starter and has led the team in goals since her freshman year. She scored 24 goals last year, including both in the state championship game.

"Jane's come back this year with a lot more maturity than last year," said Hoilett, who has been coaching at Catholic since 1994. "I personally think she's grown not just as a soccer player but as a person. She's really embracing that role now to become one of the team leaders."

Luckie, a senior, returns in goal for the Cougars. Last year, she and the Catholic defense recorded 17 shutouts and allowed only two goals in the playoffs.

Senior forward Nicky Peralta also returns to the Cougar attack, and junior midfielder Ana Waits and junior defender Megan Deschenes will bring experience to Catholic's starting lineup.

"Those girls, they've got a year or two each under their belts, so I expect them to come in and not just be productive on the field but give us that leadership that you need to be successful," said Hoilett.

The Cougars will also benefit from the experience of two sophomores that were brought up to the varsity team for the playoffs last year as freshmen: forward Lindsey Tully and defender Cassie Ray. Tully started in the playoffs last year and assisted Cline on one of her state championship goals.

The biggest problem for Catholic coming into the season is injuries. Returning starter senior defenders Lindsay McVeigh and Betsy Barnhardt, who had the late game winning goal against Marvin Ridge in last year's state quarterfinals, both tore their ACLs in the offseason. Hoilett hopes they will return later in the season.

With the injuries, Hoilett will again have to rely on younger players.

Hoilett thinks his players have the talent to challenge for the state title.

"I think I'm fortunate to have a bunch of girls that are intelligent players and for the most part they understand what's being asked and they'll try to do what you ask," said Hoilett. "I absolutely love my players I have here to work with."