When it comes to sports, spring brings two sure things to the Lake Norman Charter campus: the girls soccer team competing for conference and state championships and the school finishing high in the state athletic association’s Wells Fargo Cup statewide standings.
The Wells Fargo Cup is the measuring stick for a school’s overall competitiveness when compared to other schools in its classification. Since the 2010-11 school year, the second year Lake Norman Charter fielded varsity teams, the Knights have finished in the top five in the state every year.
The girls soccer team, which has been coached by Justin Valenti since its inception, was 12-3-1 overall as of Apr. 25. The Knights won the 1A state championship in 2013 and have reached at least the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs in five of the team’s first six years.
The soccer state playoffs start May 11. The state athletic association will release Wells Fargo Cup results in June at the conclusion of the spring sports seasons.
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Lake Norman Charter is one of several relatively young Lake Norman area schools that rank high in the annual Wells Fargo Cup rankings. Cornelius Hough and Community School of Davidson have also been highly successful in recent years.
Lake Norman Charter, whose girls tennis team won a second consecutive 2A state championship last fall, is hoping that the spring sports season’s results will help it capture its second Wells Fargo Cup championship in three years. LNC finished first in the 1A standings in 2013, in just its fourth year of varsity competition.
“The coaches and the players is what it comes down to,” said Matt Schlegel, athletic director at LNC, which is now a 2A school. “You have to have coaches that buy into the sport. They don’t do it for the money. They do it for their passion. They get those students ready to go.
I don’t think there’s any secret to it.”
Lake Norman Charter placed third the Wells Fargo Cup in 2014 and second in 2015. In addition to the state competition, the Wells Fargo Cup also awards winners within their own conferences.
In the statewide competition, schools are awarded points when their teams finish in the top eight in state championships. Fifty points are awarded to a state championship winning school, 45 for second, 40 for third, and so on.
Individual state championships, of which Lake Norman Charter has compiled 17 in boys and girls swimming/diving and girls tennis over the last seven years, are not awarded Wells Fargo Cup points.
Senior tennis player Hannah Archer, who won the 1A singles title in 2012 and teamed with sister Olivia Archer to win 2A doubles championships in 2014 and 2015, has been a key member of LNC’s team championships, coached by Jenny Connell. Archer has attended Lake Norman Charter since fifth grade, playing on Connell’s middle school teams before they both jumped to the high school.
“One thing I think is different from other schools is while our teams are competitive, (Lake Norman Charter) has that student-athlete kind of vibe as opposed to other bigger schools where some of the kids may be focused on just athletics,” said Hannah Archer, whose home school would be Hough if she did not attend Lake Norman Charter. “I really like that because you can still excel in academics.”
With the exception of a football/soccer stadium, Lake Norman Chartermust use off-campus facilities for its other outdoor sports. Schlegel says LNC gets ample support from the Town of Huntersville’s Park and Recreation Department.
Hough, a 4A school that opened in 2010, finished in the state ranking’s top four for three straight years before sliding to tenth in the 2014-15 school year. Community School of Davidson placed second in school years ending in 2014 and 2015, its first two years of eligibility.
Hough athletic director Masanori Taguchi lauds the overall support his coaches and athletes receive for school’s Wells Fargo Cup success.
“I think overall, we have community buy-in from the three small areas we serve (Cornelius, Huntersville, Davidson),” said Taguchi. “We have great parental support. Our administration understands athletics. Having that trifecta is very nice. It leads to coaches and players feeling comfortable. Having their peers at games is also really nice.
“We usually have at least one mayor in the building (for an athletic event). We’re in a big school system but we have that small town atmosphere at our school, which is really great.”
Baseball, boys golf, boys tennis, and girls soccer were among the spring sports Hough fielded first place teams in the MECKA 4A Conference as of April 25.
Joe Habina is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.