Charlotte Latin School won the N.C. Independent Schools girls state championship Saturday for the seventh time in nine years. And from the looks of things, the Hawks’ winning ways won’t be changing anytime soon.
Behind a pair of goals from Mary Elliott McCabe, Latin stopped previously unbeaten Cary Academy 2-1. Hawks coach Lee Horton, now 60 years old, won his 10th girls state championship overall at Latin. In 31 years of coaching, he also has seven boys state championships.
And he said they all feel sweet.
“It feels really good,” Horton said. “Cary was very talented. They had a girl on the right flank going to Duke (junior Remi Swartz) and a girl on the left going to Chapel Hill (senior Abigail Staker) and they were real studs. We had to double-team them all day long. Both Providence Day (whom Latin beat 2-1 in overtime Friday) and Cary were so talented. We’re talented as well, but not as deep, but we’re so special in goal and that goalkeeper makes the difference.”
Latin goalie Claudia Dickey is a sophomore committed to North Carolina, and she also plays point guard for Latin’s basketball team. Horton said she’s so good in basketball that Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell has told Dickey’s family that there’s a real possibility she could play soccer and basketball when she gets to Chapel Hill.
“I’ve been doing this for 31 years and she’s the best I’ve ever seen,” Horton said. “She’s an unbelievable athlete. She reads the ball in the air so well and she’s such a good athlete with how she moves that if you put in the air she’ll get it. And she’s pretty good on the ground, too.”
Cary (16-1) dominated the early play, forcing the ball on Latin’s defensive end for at least 10 minutes. But McCabe, another sophomore North Carolina commit, got behind the defense off a free kick from Sutton Jones. McCabe is a right-footed kicker, but her left-footed sailed hard, high and true for a 1-0 lead.
Cary tied the game with three minutes left in the first half off a header. But three minutes into the second half, Kassie Nielsen smacked a pass into the gap that McCabe broke on and finished her 28th and final goal of the season. After that, Dickey kept repelling chances. She finished with 18 saves -- and Latin (19-2-4) finished with another title.
Horton got his 994th career win. And with two major college sophomores returning and just four senior starters leaving, there’s not reason to think Horton and the Hawks won’t keep contending for more rings.
“The future is really good,” Horton said. “It’s nice to be that young, but our seniors were incredible leaders and the culture they’ve created for this year’s team was the strength of our team. So the future is exciting, but we’re going to enjoy what this group did. Last year’s seniors taught this group how to lead and I talked to them in the locker room about how ‘You girls pas it one from one group to the next.’ As freshman when they come in, they appreciate you they get treated and they want to do the same for others. We’re really proud of the tradition and culture we’ve created in our soccer program. It’s pretty special.”