In less than a month, many private school sports will hold their end-of-season state championship games, meets and matches, with the public schools beginning their playoffs, as well.
This week, I’m taking a look at each sport and revealing the top state title contenders from southern Mecklenburg, Union County, Matthews and Mint Hill.
(All records and statistics are current through Oct. 7)
Girls cross country
Weddington and Cuthbertson are going to battle for the 3A title once again after the Cavs finished second and the Warriors were third behind state champion Chapel Hill, which lost three of its top five runners to graduation.
The Warriors are led by Emma Jones (19:12), but Anna Davis (19:17), Sarah Betchel (19:30), Kathleen Abrams (19:37), Anna Brown (19:52) and Ilana Thommen (19:56) have already cracked the 20-minute mark. Six other Warriors have already broke 21, so this is without question the deepest team.
Cuthbertson lost its top runner, Sarah LaTour, to graduation but the Cavs are still supremely talented.
Madeline Hill (18:21) is the pack leader for Cuthbertson, but Leah Helms (18:51), Kaitlyn St. Hilaire (19:51), Delany Patterson (19:51) and Gabriella Castro (19:58) have all broken 20 minutes.
The Cavs are not near as deep as Weddington is, but they’re just as fast up front.
Best of the Rest:
• Covenant Day: Last year’s NCISAA 3A champs haven’t run to potential yet, but Sedona Dancu leads a talented bunch. Dancu (20:10) is the closest the Lions have come to breaking 20 minutes, but four runners are under 22 and there’s a pack of three more looking to emerge.
• Myers Park: Cora Cooke has stormed onto the cross country scene after a great track season to become the Mustangs No. 1. Cooke’s 18:30 is very fast up top, but the Mustangs could use some help from the back. Tyler Brading and Clara Richards are already under 20:38 and if a couple more girls can get there the Mustangs could be top eight in the state.
• Providence Day: The Charger boys get most of the attention, but the girls team could easily win states with a couple of lucky bounces. Justine Cronk (19:31) leads the Chargers pack, but Ashley Horowitz (20:04) and newcomer Annabel Henegar (20:51) have already broken 21 minutes. Ananyaa Bharadwaj is one second from the pace and Caroline Sicard (21:30) is close. If Providence Day can get five runners under 21 minutes, they’ll win it all.
Boys cross country
This is shaping up to be a two-team race, and both will more than likely be crowned champions as Weddington and Providence Day are far and away the class of their respective divisions.
The Chargers won their first NCISAA 3A championship in four seasons last year, and this team has a real shot at being even better.
Providence Day’s top five this season are Christian Landis (15:46), Adam Habas (16:17), Jason Krell (16:37), Andrew Riolo (16:47) and Colter Nichols (16:47). All are underclassmen, so this is the beginning of a little Charger run and if they run to their potential there is no private school team close.
In the best case, though, the Chargers could only get to No. 2 in the state because Weddington is that strong.
Last year, the Warriors were edged by Mount Tabor, but they have since graduated three of their top four runners while the Warriors return Will Mazur, Kyle Durham and return each of their top seven runners.
This season the top five Warriors have been Jake Toomey (15:55), Durham (15:56), Nate Jaster (15:57), Jackson O’Hara (16:01) and Mazur (16:05). In addition, six other Warriors have been under 17:14 this season, making them talented, deep and the team to beat regardless of classification.
Best of the Rest:
• Cuthbertson: Led by Walker Lezotte (16:39), the Cavs boast its top four all under 17:04 and have nine guys break the 18-minute barrier.
• Marvin Ridge: The Mavs are another Union County powerhouse. Led by Cole Jackson (16:40) and Gunner Hogston (16:45), Marvin Ridge has a pack of six guys who go in between 17:16 and 17:54.
• Metrolina Christian: Tate Johnson (17:08) is the star, but the Warriors have four guys under 18:19. If they can get someone else into that range, they could be dangerous.
• Myers Park: Grant Renner (16:56) and Tristan Wick (16:57) are the headliners, but five other runners have gone under 18. If they could cut 15-25 seconds off, the Mustangs could roar.
• Providence: Pace Clark (16:04) and David Broud (16:52) have gone under 17, but three more Panthers have already broken 17:42. And you can never count the Panthers out.
The Myers Park girls soccer team has become a dynasty under coach Bucky McCarley, producing annual winners like last spring’s team that went unbeaten in the championship game before losing.
The boys haven’t typically followed suit in that same success. Although they’ve been traditionally good, the Mustangs haven’t been a powerhouse.
This year’s Myers Park team is 13-0 and two wins shy of its most since 2012.
Like his girls, this team relies on defense.
Behind goalkeepers Jacob Hall and backup Griffin Wood, the Mustangs have allowed all of six goals.
All-region senior Sam Bass has paced the offense, scoring 14 goals and adding a team-best seven assists.
But this team is deep.
Eleven players have scored at least two goals, and six of those guys have put in four or more goals, making the Mustangs dangerous.
Hickory Ridge and Porter Ridge are likely the only regular-season tests remaining, but the Mustangs haven’t been past the second round of the playoffs since 2015.
This is the 10th anniversary of the 2008 team’s title, so maybe fate is on the Mustangs side.
Best of the Rest:
• Carmel Christian (9-4)
Records can be deceiving. The Cougars have lost to Providence Day (twice), Gaston Christian and Ravenscroft — all in early season tests against larger schools. Since, Carmel has won seven straight, allowing a total of three goals in those matches.
• Charlotte Catholic (14-2-1, 7-1)
The Cougars slipped up in double overtime at Monroe, or would be on a nine-game win streak and unbeaten in league play. The Cougars score nearly three goals per game on average, but the defense is very good, and allowing about a goal per match.
• Marvin Ridge (11-2, 7-1)
Five players have seven or more goals. Senior Zenou Tchamwa leads the team with nine goals and nine assists, but the Mavs like to spread the ball around and have five players with seven or more goals. On the season, sophomore Matt Semcesen and the Marvin Ridge defense has allowed just 11 goals.
• South Meck (11-3-1)
The Sabres are the toast of the So. Meck 7, but have had to squeak past Providence and Ardrey Kell in recent matches. Still, the Sabres have allowed just one goal during their four-game win streak and feature striker Miguel Alverez, who has 19 goals and 11 assists. Coach Eric White knows how to win the big ones, too.
It’s not likely there will be a team champion this season, but there are plenty of girl golfers to keep an eye on.
Here are a few:
• Erica Boyd and Sophie Marijono, Providence:
The Panthers have been helped by the strong play at the top from Boyd (39.6 stroke average) and Marijono (41.3).
• Amber Capote, Marvin Ridge:
Capote finished tied for 31st at last year’s 3A championship, but has been Union County’s best player this season, averaging 39.5 shots per round.
• Audrey Nelson, Myers Park:
Nelson tied for 44th in the state last season, but has tightened up her game and is averaging just 37.8 strokes per nine.
• Hailey Pendleton, Weddington:
The Sun Valley transfer is averaging 39.8 per nine holes after placing 15th in the 3A meet, which was Union County’s top performance.
• Kallie Pavlish, Charlotte Catholic:
Pavlish is the Cougars ace, averaging just 38.5 shots this season after tying for 29th at last year’s 3A championship.
• Alexis Sudjianto, Charlotte Latin:
The Hawk was fourth last season at the NCISAA tournament, earning all-state honors. She’s playing even better this year.
• Kelly Topiwala, Carmel Christian:
The all-state golfer is back to lead the Cougars after placing seventh is the state. This season she’s hanging around 37 shots per nine and could be the state’s top golfer.
• Makenzie Toth, Porter Ridge:
Toth tied for 31st at last year’s state meet, but the senior is back and ready to build off that.
Marvin Ridge (35-2, 11-0):
The Marvin Ridge girls are always good under coach Brook Hammers.
In fact, since 2010 the Mavs are 206-29 under Hammers, which is good for an 88 percent win percentage.
But this may be Hammers’ best team.
The Mavs are 35-2 this season, unbeaten in league play and winners of nine straight.
Lexi Thomas (306 kills, 164 digs, team-best 50 service aces), Mac Russ (264 kills, team-high 56 blocks), Maggie Young (246 kills) and Paige Buttrey (160 digs, 131 kills) power the offense with Madi Graveline (301 digs) and Adriana Jordan (903 assists, 183 digs) doing everything else.
The Mavs have never won a state title, but this could be the year.
Country Day (15-2, 8-0):
No Charlotte-area school has won the NCISAA title since the Bucs won in 2013 and again in 2014.
Last season, Country Day set the foundation, but this year, coach Anna Moore and her Bucs are winners of 13 straight matches and at least among the top private-school teams in the state.
Senior Zoe Weatherington (298 kills, 140 digs, 40 aces, team-best 30 blocks) is their leading hitter, but the Bucs are loaded with stars like freshman Sydney Schultz (147 kills, 113 digs) and sophomores Kayla Spangler (team-high 558 assists, 104 digs) and Addison Pignetti (team-high 229 digs and team-leading 42 service aces) who make them go.
The Bucs made it to the semifinals last year, but are a better team this season.
Ardrey Kell (18-3, 11-0):
The Knights got tripped up in a 3-1 loss to Mallard Creek on Oct. 6. The loss ended a 14-game win streak, but it got coach Zoe Bell’s attention.
This team isn’t reliant upon a singular star, and the Knights are better off because of it.
Juniors Sania McCoy (140 digs, team-high 134 kills), Mya Duggan (team-high 162 digs and 113 kills), Jadyn Barry (team-high 586 assists, 149 digs, team-leading 49 aces) and Bridget Elmore (92 kills, team-best 33 blocks) have had big years.
The 4A landscape is treacherous, and the Knights haven’t been out of the third round since winning it all in 2012.
But this could be the team to change all of that.
Best of the Rest:
• Carmel Christian (13-3):
The Cougars are 12-3 under long-time coach Karen Bradbury this season, but have become a yearly contender. This season, the season-havey Cougars lean on Gaylen Allen, Caroline Boyce and Sarah McNeilly.
• Charlotte Catholic (15-6, 10-0):
The Cougars boast one of the top outside hitters in the state in Emma Ellis, and Catholic has yet to lose in conference play. They’ll play Marvin Ridge twice still, so that will tell a lot about this team.
Myers Park (15-0, 6-0) and Charlotte Latin (9-3, 2-1):
Field hockey giants Charlotte Latin and Myers Park have met twice this season with the Mustangs and their high-powered offense winning both.
While that represents a changing of the guard — the Mustangs hadn’t beaten the Hawks in seven tries prior to this season — it is no indictment on either.
Charlotte Latin and Myers Park are still the top teams in Charlotte and probably the state.
The Mustangs are two-time defending champions, and they boast perhaps the state’s top player in Stanford commit Megan Frost.
Caroline Page, Sarah Perkinson and Sarah Minges are stabilizing forces for the Mustangs. Goalkeeper Caroline Bailey and her stellar defense has allowed three goals this season while the offense has poured in 79.
They are the favorites to repeat.
In private school field hockey, Latin is coming off its third straight title.
When the Hawks lost to the Mustangs in late August, it was Latin’s first loss in two seasons, but this is a young team long-time coach Deb Savino has, but she’s coaching them up.
It helps to have all-state defenders Myah Pease and Sutton Orndorff along with goalkeeper Grace Crutchfield anchoring a stingy defense that’s given up eight goals all year.
Latin will have challengers, but are the champs until someone knocks them off.
Best of the Rest:
• Charlotte Catholic (11-1-1):
The only Cougar loss of the season came in a 7-1 defeat at the hands of Myers Park, who thrashed Catholic 7-1. The Cougars have dominated most teams, but don’t seem ready to tackle the mighty Mustangs.
• Country Day (9-2-2):
The Bucs haven’t lost in eight games, and see themselves atop the private-school conference that Charlotte Latin has owned. They’re the Hawks best competition, and Lilly Poole and all-state midfielder Katie So seem up tp the challenge. Plus they beat Latin 2-1 on Oct. 2.
Charlotte Catholic (18-0, 13-0):
The defending 3A champs are young, but proving to be very good once again.
They have once again blitzed through the Union County-based Southern Carolinas Conference, knocking off power Marvin Ridge twice already this season.
They also ended Myers Park’s five-plus year regular-season win streak, but this team doesn’t care who lines up across from them.
Of the 157 matches the Cougars have played this season, they’ve won 149 of them.
Defending 3A singles champion Rose Kenney is the headliner and for good reason at 10-1 playing on Court 1.
Senior Logan Stuckey has been a steady force, and especially with freshmen Magge Gehrig, Amore Cardens-Cook, Ava Tan and Kaitlyn Tozzi all playing extensive minutes in singles play.
Sophomore Domenica Moreno rounds out what could be the state’s most complete team.
Myers Park (17-1, 11-0):
Myers Park capped off an unbeaten 2016 season by winning the NCHSAA state title.
Last year, with many of the sams girls, the Mustangs were once again unbeaten when they made it to the championship game, but they lost 5-3 to Green Hope.
The Mustangs suffered their first regular-season loss in at least five seasons at the hands of Charlotte Catholic last month, but this team is battle tested and talented.
Katie Weber is the No. 1, but the Mustangs have gotten solid play from regular singles players Elyse Duley, Emily Holderness, Halle Futch, Carson Weber, Cate Davis, Hayden Plyler and Anna Snead.
Best of the Rest:
• Ardrey Kell (12-5)/Providence (10-2):
Both teams have one loss in So. Meck 7 play and are fighting each other for the league’s top spot and a high seed. If one of them gets hot they could go deep, but neither team is near Myers Park’s level.
• Charlotte Christian (11-1)
The Knights have never been this good on the court. It starts up front with Margaret Carlton and Lilly McNally, but the Knights have received contributions up and down their lineup. They have a shot at a private school crown, but must get past Durham Academy and possibly Charlotte Latin first.
• Marvin Ridge (17-2):
The Mavs have been world beaters this season with the return of No.1 Ella Imhof, going 17-2 and dominating the Southern Carolinas. Their only two losses have come to Charlotte Catholic, so the Mavs are good, but not on the level of the Cougars.