High School Sports

Prep Notes: Marvin Ridge baseball coach Mark Mennitt resigns, players of week

Marvin Ridge coach Mark Mennitt will resign in January after 11 years as the head baseball coach.
Marvin Ridge coach Mark Mennitt will resign in January after 11 years as the head baseball coach. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Marvin Ridge baseball coach Mark Mennitt is retiring.

Mennitt, 51, coached 11 seasons at Marvin Ridge, winning 232 games, 11 conference championships, and he led the Mavericks to N.C. 3A state championships in 2015 and 2016.

Mennitt said he will teach the first semester of the 2018-19 school year and retire in January 2019.

Mennitt said he planned to watch his daughter, Demi, and his son, Sam, play more. Demi will play volleyball at Monroe Parkwood next fall. Sam just finished his freshman year at UNC Charlotte, where he was a baseball player for the 49ers.

Mennitt has 24 years of head coaching experience -- including nine years at Independence and four years at Parkwood -- and 28 years of teaching experience. With unused sick days, he'll have the 30 years total to retire from the school system.

He hopes to find another teaching and coaching job outside N.C. public schools, a move that would allow him to draw retirement plus a new salary.

"I know I want to coach again," Mennitt said, "but if I took off a couple years to chase (my kids) around, that would be ideal. But if a job creeps up with coaching, that's what I'll do. I didn't want to leave but economically, it's best for my family. If I can make an extra 30,000 a year, I'm crazy for not doing that."

Mennitt said leaving Marvin Ridge would be hard.

"I've been doing it so long," he said. "I know I'll miss the kids and the relationships you developed with them and the coaches. That's going to be the hardest thing, but it's time for somebody else to take the reigns. It's never a good time, but I've had a great principal, great support, a great athletics director. Marvin Ridge has been a dream job."

N.C. Girls All-State Soccer teams announced

The N.C. Soccer Coaches Association released its all-state teams and they are chock full of Observer-area players.

Private: Claudia Dickey, Sutton Jones, Mary Elliott McCabe, Paige Nurkin, Charlotte Latin; Emma Goldean, Marissa Hart, Morgan Hart, Providence Day

1A: Darby Bevis, Community School of Davidson; Sarah Brown, Caleigh MacKinnon, Mya Manivanh, Union Academy; Anna Grace Sumner, Gray Stone Day

2A: Sierra Gilley, East Lincoln; Kasey Hahn, Ayden Yates, Lake Norman Charter; Madison Henry, South Rowan; Allison Herrera, Lenoir Hibriten; Morgan Hill, R-S Central; Julia Honeycutt, Piper Muire, Lillie Rusher, Salisbury; Helen Summerell, West Iredell

3A: Faith Adams, Alex Odle, Kaylee Van Gundy, Weddington; Eveleen Hahn, Lindsey Poff, Charlotte Catholic; Delaney McDermott, Blake Sutherland, Marvin Ridge; Julia Patrum, Concord; Reagan Sandford, Gastonia Forestview; Sydney Smith, Concord Cox Mill; Ayden Vaughan, Hickory; Kyleigh Von Klahr, NW Cabarrus

4A: Devin Donaghy, Sylvana Salice, Lake Norman; Brynn Douglas, Harrisburg Hickory Ridge; Haley Godwin, Olivia Hollidge, Weezie Targgart, Myers Park; Madison Oracion, Meghan Skinner, Hough; Tori Paul, Olympic.

For the complete all-state teams, click here

Jay Edwards Boys Spring Sports Athletes of the week

Lake Norman lacrosse star Matt Elder Courtesy Victory Views

Matt Elder, Lake Norman lacrosse: Six years ago, Matt Elder, his younger brother, Drew, and most of the rest of his then Lake Norman United club lacrosse team were sitting in a hotel room in Virginia. They were watching the Lake Norman High lacrosse team finish a 23-0 season with a dramatic, 9-8 victory over Cardinal Gibbons to claim the NCHSAA state championship.

Fast forward to 2018 and most of the same group of players that were watching the game in that hotel room would get their final chance to win their own state championship at Lake Norman as high school seniors. Matt’s younger brother, Drew, was a Lake Norman sophomore this season.

Lake Norman had had their chances as the 4A state runner-up the previous two seasons, losing to Middle Creek in the state finals in 2017, and Cardinal Gibbons in the same game in 2016.

“I remember all of us watching that game (state championship game in 2012) and it was really cool because we didn’t know what a state championship was all about,” Matt Elder said. “But after watching Lake Norman win that game, I think all of us (Lake Norman United team) wanted to be a part of a state championship. After losing in the state championship the last two years, a lot of people didn’t know if we’d win one. But our whole senior class was like, 'There’s no way we’re going 0-3.' We were determined to finish (our careers) as (state) champions.”

Lake Norman head lacrosse coach James Brugger admits he was nervous about even mentioning the state championship, but Elder was not.

“Matt said from the beginning that this is our senior year and we aren’t going 0-for-3 (in state championship games),” Brugger said. “I really didn’t want to talk about the state championship then, because I am little superstitious. But Matt (Elder) just embraced the challenge all season.”

Elder and Lake Norman (22-2) did just that, as the Wildcats got their revenge beating Middle Creek, 13-11, to earn the 4A state championship, May 19.

The Elder brothers both played huge roles in the championship game with Matt scoring three goals and dishing out four assists, while Drew, the 4A state title game’s most valuable player, won 20 of 25 face-offs, while adding three goals and 17 groundballs.

While the win was special for the entire Lake Norman family, it was particularly gratifying for Drew, Matt and Coach Brugger, who first met on a lacrosse field 10 years ago. The Elders had just moved to Mooresville from Maryland.

Both the Elder boys played for Brugger on the Lake Norman United club team with his son, James Brugger, Jr.

The Bruggers and Elders spent a lot of time carpooling to both practices and tournaments and are close family friends, living just one street apart in Mooresville.

“Winning the state championship felt a lot better after having lost in the state (championship) game the last two years,” Matt Elder said. “It was great to win the championship our senior year, because there’s no better way to finish our high school careers.

…But this game wasn’t just about us. We won it all for all the guys, especially in 2016 and 2017 that lost in their final, Lake Norman game. This was for the entire Lake Norman lacrosse (family).”

Matt Elder was named Conference 13 offensive player of the year, all-region and all-state after leading the Wildcats with 68 goals and 58 assists this season.

Elder’s 126 points this season was a Lake Norman single-season school record.

Elder also owns the school-record for career points (269) and assists (117).

But Elder would have traded every goal and assist in his career for a championship.

“I set a lot of personal goals each year that I want to achieve,” Elder said. “But the goal I really cared about was winning a state championship.”

Eric Hudson Jr., West Mecklenburg Wrestling: The West Mecklenburg junior had a big week, collecting the school’s male athlete of the year award and being inducted into the National Honor Society, May 22.

One day later, Hudson Jr. was the keynote speaker at his former middle school, Piedmont I.B’s, spring sports’ banquet.

Hudson, who holds a 3.9 grade-point average, also went 41-1 on the mat this year on his way to a 4A state championship (in 195-pound weight class), where he was also named the 4A state meet’s most outstanding wrestler.

Hudson, who now has 102 career wins in high school wrestling, recently competed in the NHSCA National Wrestling tournament (March 24-25) and the NHSCA National Duals in Virginia Beach (May 26-27).

Owen White, Carson Baseball: The Carson senior was named N.C. Gatorade baseball player of the year, May 29.

White, a University of South Carolina signee, is also projected to be a high Major League Baseball pick in next month’s draft. White is ranked as one of the top high school prospects in the country by multiple publications.

White, 6-foot-3, 185-pounds, finished his senior season 10-1 on the mound with 0.22 earned-run average (ERA), striking out 101 batters. He also hit .333 with two home runs and 24 RBI at the plate.

White also helped lead his Carson team to a 24-6 record and the 3A state quarterfinals.

Luke Carpenter, Ardrey Kell Baseball: The Ardrey Kell junior pitcher set the tone in the 4A Western Regional final series opener, going 5.1 innings allowing just one run on two hits to help the Knights to an 8-1 win at East Forsyth, May 22.

Carpenter has been the Knights’ ace all year, going 7-0 on the mound with 52 strikeouts in 50.2 innings of work, allowing just six earned runs all season, while boasting a 0.83 ERA.

Ardrey Kell closed out the East Forsyth series, 2-0, with a 7-6 win two days later at home.

The Knights (26-5) now take on Fuquay-Varina (20-11) in the 4A state championship series that begins June 1 at Five County Stadium in Zebulon at 8 p.m.

Nick Melton, Crest Baseball: The Crest senior held Asheville Reynolds scoreless in his 6.1 innings of work on the mound, allowing just five hits, while also striking out five to help the Chargers to a 7-0 victory in the decisive game three of the 3A West Regional finals, May 26.

Melton, a Queens University signee, outdueled Reynolds’ senior pitcher and UNC signee Josh Dotson, who was previously unbeaten.

Crest lost the series opener against A.C. Reynolds, 5-1, May 23, only to come back with a 10-3 win two days later.

Crest now takes on Wilmington New Hanover (30-1) in the 3A state championship series that beings June 1 at Burlington Athletic Stadium at 5 p.m.

Ryan Restino, Lincoln Charter Baseball: The Lincoln Charter junior pitcher helped the Eagles even the 1A West Regional finals’ series at 1-1, tossing a complete-game, three-hitter to his team to 2-0 win over Murphy, May 24.

Restino was strong all season going 9-2 on the mound with 0.66 ERA, and 82 strikeouts in 74 innings of work.

Lincoln Charter lost the 1A West Regional championship series finale 11-1 at Murphy, May 26.

The Eagles had a strong season going 22-7 overall, including 13-2 in the South Piedmont 1A conference to win the league title.

Nick Solomita, North Lincoln Baseball: The North Lincoln senior went 3-for-4 with a double, RBI and two runs scored in the Knights’ 11-4 loss to Ledford, May 22.

Solomita, a UNC Greensboro signee, didn’t get a hit in his final high school game as Ledford won 2-0 to close out the 2A West Regional finals, May 24.

But Solomita and the North Lincoln baseball team had a banner year, going 25-4 overall, 13-1 in league play to win the South Fork 2A conference title.

Solomita had a standout senior year, batting .375, while scoring 37 runs, driving 13 RBI and serving as the team’s shortstop in the field.

Girls’ Athletes of the Week

2018.Julie Gast.2.IMG_6625.JPG
Alexander Central softball player Julie Gast Nikki Bost

Julie Gast, Alexander Central Softball: The Alexander Central senior shortstop continued her torrid pace at the plate, going 6-for-10 at the plate in the Cougars’ two-game sweep of Carson to win the 3A West Regional championship.

Gast was 5-for-6 with a home run, three runs scored and two RBI in the series’ clinching 20-8 win, May 24.

Gast, a Lees McRae College signee, is hitting .568 with 45 runs scored, eight home runs, 49 RBI and 12 stolen bases this season.

Alexander Central (26-5) now takes on Cleveland (20-3) in 3A state championship series, which begins June 1 at UNC Greensboro’s softball stadium at 5 p.m.

Reagan Weisner, South Caldwell softball: The South Caldwell freshman had home runs in back-to-back wins last week as the Spartans swept Richmond Senior to win the 4A West Regional championship.

Weisner was 1-for-3 with a home run, RBI and stolen base in South Caldwell’s 3-2 win over Richmond, May 23.

The next day, Weisner went 1-for-2 at the plate with two RBI as the Spartans outlasted the Raiders, 10-9, to advance to the 4A state championship.

Weisner had been big all season for Spartans, hitting .443 with seven home runs, 41 RBI and 40 runs scored.

South Caldwell (28-2), who has won 25 straight games, now takes on Jack Britt (23-5) in the 4A state championship series, which begins June 1 at N.C. State’s Dail softball field, at 5 p.m.

Caleigh MacKinnon, Union Academy Soccer: The Union Academy senior finished her Cardinals’ soccer career in style, scoring three goals and dishing out two more assists to help her team to a 6-1 win over Franklin (defending 1A state champion) to win the 1A state championship, May 26.

McKinnon scored two goals, both in 15th minute, to give Union Academy (25-1) a 2-0 lead in the first half. She also netted the first goal of the second half to help put away the game.

McKinnon had two goals and two assists in Union Academy’s 8-0 win over Lincoln Charter in the 2A West semifinals, May 22.

McKinnon, who 35 goals and 26 assists this season, finishes her Union Academy career with a school-record 176 goals and 87 assists.

Abby Britt, Myers Park Soccer: The Myers Park goal keeper had a standout senior season with 17 shutouts this year, allowing just five goals in 23 games.

Britt helped Myers Park to a 2-1 win over Pinecrest in the 4A state semifinal win May 22.

While the Mustangs (21-1-1) lost their first game of the season in the 4A state championship, 1-0, to Fuquay-Varina, Britt had another strong game.

Britt got a lot of help from her backline in defenders, senior, Taylor Guzi, junior, Megan Frost, and sophomores, CeCe Cobb and Morgan Smiley.

Myers Park outscored its opponents 111-6 this season, including 14-3 in the playoffs.

Sarah McHale, Cox Mill Soccer: The Cox Mill senior scored two goals in the second overtime to help the Chargers beat T.C. Roberson (May 22) to advance to their first 3A state championship game in school history.

While McHale didn’t score in Cox Mill’s 1-0 loss to Chapel in the 3A state title game May 26, she had a season to remember with 27 goals to help the Chargers to 19-3-2 record.

McHale, a Charlotte 49ers’ signee, finished her Cox Mill career with a school-record 117 goals.

Ayden Yates, Lake Norman Charter Soccer: The Lake Norman Charter sophomore finished her season in record-breaking fashion, tying her own school record with 45 goals this season (45 goals as freshman).

Yates also broke her own single-season total points record with 116 points (45 goals, 26 assists), after totaling 104 points as a freshman.

Yates and classmate, Kasey Hahn both broke the Lake Norman Charter single-season assist record as each Knight standout tallied 26 assist this season, besting the previous mark set (24) by Rina Leonidas in 2011.

Yates had a goal and an assist in the final two games of her sophomore season as Lake Norman Charter beat Salisbury 2-0 to win the 2A West Regional title, May 22, before losing 6-1 to First Flight in the 2A state championship, May 26.

Yates, a Virginia Tech commit, scored the lone goal for the Knights in the state finals to give her team a 1-0 lead just eight minutes into the game.

Ariana Rivera, Providence Track: The Providence junior was named SoMeck7 conference female athlete of the year last week.

Rivera capped her junior season, helping the, Panthers’ 4 X 400-meter relay team to a 4A state championship, as the quartet (with Rivera, senior, Zaria Dunlap, sophomore, Neemisha Coleman, sophomore, Ella Mainwaring Foster) ran a school record 3:51.59 at North Carolina A&T, May 19. The 4 X 400-meter, state title time was also the No. 1 time run in the state in the event this outdoor season.

Rivera also finished as 4A state runner-up in the 300-meter hurdles with a personal-best 42.44 and was 9th-place in the 200-meter dash at states.

Rivera was SoMeck7 and 4A West Regional champion in both the 200 meter dash and 300-meter hurdles.

Want to nominate an athlete?: Athletes of the week highlights high school athletes with outstanding performances. Information published today includes statistics through May 27. The goal is to recognize all athletes in all sports, both the most accomplished and the underrated or underappreciated players. If you want to suggest someone to be included in the Athletes of the week column, send email to Jay Edwards at edwardswork23@gmail.com. Please include the athletes’ name, school, class and applicable game performance statistics. Coaches must be willing to verify information.

Carmel Christian tennis: The Cougars won their third straight 2A state championship last month. The team includes senior Dillon Gooch, sophomore Matthew Gooch and junior Alec Strause, who plays No. 1 doubles with Dillon Gouch.