Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly recognizes top athletes in their respective sports with Player of the Year awards.
Kelley Topiwala, golf
• Why she was chosen: Topiwala made sure Carmel Christian’s first season with a competing team counted. The junior starred all season atop the Cougar lineup and turned it up when it mattered most as she placed fourth overall in the NCISAA Division II field. With teammates Bethany Welch and Annalise Rice, Topiwala and the Cougars became the first girls team to win a team championship in any sport.
• What they’re saying: “She’s not real big and may not be as long as some of the other girls off the tee, but she hits the ball straight down the middle and her short game is tremendous,” said Carmel Christian coach Bill Smith. “She’s been a great developer of her game and an inspirer to me. But she’s really an inspiration to the girls because she’s such an encourager. She has a great smile all the time, keeps them upbeat and she shoots these low scores that let them know that they, too, are capable of great things.”
Lucas Brown, boys cross country
• Why he was chosen: Brown came into the cross country season fresh off an outdoor 1,600-meter track title and showed from the start that he would build off that. He recorded an early top 10 time in the state with a 16:05 and ran a personal-best 16:01 at a meet in Cary. The No. 1-ranked 1A runner for much of the year, Brown won the regional championship by over 20 seconds ahead of the field. At the state meet, he held the lead for much of the race and finished fourth.
• What they’re saying: “In terms of what makes Lucas deserving of this award, beyond being one of the top runners in the state and the results he posted, I would say Lucas is dedicated to his sport,” said Queens Grant coach Daniel Stein. “He has had steady improvement each and every year since his freshman year (and) has done so because he is willing to put in the time and attention needed to get the results. Lucas is an honors student, one of the captains on his cross country and track teams and displays good sportsmanship after crossing ever single finish line. I could not think of a more deserving athlete for your award.”
Cvan Than, soccer
• Why he was chosen: Independence won seven straight matches down the stretch and made it to the third round of the playoffs in Than’s swansong. The senior led the Patriots with 22 goals and also added five assists to close his career as one of the best players to ever don the green and gold. The two-time all-state selection leaves the Patriots with 65 career goals and 17 career assists, but did most of his damage with 53 scores over the past two seasons.
• What they’re saying: “The longer the season wore on, I started to realize that it was the consistency he showed game in and game out,” Independence coach Tyler Gibson said of his scoring outburst last season. “That’s what the biggest thing was. He got his chances, and he kept putting them away. He did it all season long.
“Teams are responding to him and are definitely guarding him differently. Because of that, he may not finish with the same numbers that he had last year, but he’s still having a huge impact on the field and with what we’re doing.”
Megan Frost, field hockey
• Why she was chosen: We’re just giving one regional award for field hockey since not all teams participate in the sport, but there is no doubt Frost is the correct choice. The four-time team MVP and all-state performer has led the Mustangs to three straight state titles, this one scoring the only goal in the 1-0 championship game to earn MVP honors and close out the Mustangs first-ever unbeaten season. The Stanford commit scored 34 goals and dished out 25 assists this season and ended her career with 115 total career goals and 85 career assists.
• What they’re saying: “For her to have the game-winner in a tight game kind of made it all come full circle,” Myers Park coach Erica Adcock said. “It kind of capped off a great season and a great career for her. It was special.”
Caroline Boyce, volleyball
• Why she was chosen: The Cougars went 11-4 this fall on the volleyball court and the four-year starter was perhaps the biggest reason why. Boyce did everything well for the Cougars, leading the team in kills (221) and service aces (32) while placing second on the team in digs (176). For her career, Boyce accumulated 804 digs, 710 kills and 166 aces.
• What they’re saying: “Caroline has been a player that knew what she wanted at an early age and committed to making herself better. She spent hours coming to preseason workouts,” said Carmel Christian coach Karen Bradbury. “She never missed an in-season practice in the six years I coached her. She always demonstrated self-discipline and strong work ethic by playing club volleyball, attending volleyball clinics, as well as taking private lessons on the side. She devoted herself to becoming better in all aspects of her game through hard work and dedication. Caroline’s strong Christian values are a gift to the other girls on the team. She leads through example and love.”
Tate Arrington, girls cross country
• Why she was chosen: Arrington has quickly ascended to become one of the leaders of the pack as a freshman this year. She won the So. Meck 7 conference meet with a personal-best run of 19:56, which is the 23rd-fastest time recorded by a freshman in the state this season, but she didn’t stop there. Arrington blazed a 19:59 run at the western regional which was good for ninth place and broke 20 minutes at the state meet to place 47th. Big things are on the horizon for this talented freshman, who is the only rookie in any sport to win an award from Charlotte Media Group this fall.
• What they’re saying: “Tate made the transition from middle school athletics to the demands of high school varsity cross country without any problems or setbacks,” said Providence coach Steven Touranjoe. “She trained incredibly hard and was our number one runner all season, and I’m looking forward to building on her 19:57 PR for next season.”