Relatively speaking, this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Charlotte Latin girls soccer team.
Sure, the Hawks were expected be good – it’d be hard to believe a program that had won three consecutive state championships could suddenly drop into insignificance, plus the Hawks had their fair share of talented players returning. But after losing seven standouts to graduation last year, and three more key players to season-ending injuries early in the 2011 campaign, it was asking an awful lot for this edition of the Hawks to pull off the rare “four-peat.”
But they responded to the challenge in championship fashion.
Charlotte Latin earned its fourth consecutive N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A title on May 21, rallying to defeat Raleigh Ravenscroft, 2-1, in Greensboro.
After trailing most of the game, the Hawks (16-3) scored two goals in the final 12 minutes – by Ashley Finke and Amma Okwara – to secure the championship. For Latin coach Lee Horton, it was another shining example of his team’s resilience.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Horton said. “We lost seven girls that were really good players – three that went on to play Division I soccer and four more who could have. On top of that, we lost (starters Mia Kane and Mary Lewis, and key reserve Sarah Shea) to knee injuries early in the season.
“I knew we had good enough talent to hopefully make it to the Final Four, and I always believe that if you get that far, anything can happen. This year was the perfect example of that.”
To reach the title game, the Hawks had to get past their conference nemesis, Charlotte Country Day, which had handed them a pair of emotional shutout losses this spring. But Horton said his team tried to use those defeats as learning tools, and Latin rose to the occasion in the semifinal matchup, as Finke scored both the Hawks’ goals in the 2-1 victory.
But more adversity lay ahead.
Starting center back Katherine Peters grew ill and spent the night before the championship game vomiting violently. Peters was unable to compete in the title game and spent most of the contest lying on the ground along the sidelines. Horton inserted freshman Jayne Anne Imbrogno into the starting lineup at outside back, while junior Caroline Kelly took over at Peters’ spot.
After struggling to find the net in the early stages, the Hawks finally got on the board when Finke tied the score at 1 with 12 minutes remaining off an assist from Cannon Clough. Then, at the four-minute mark, Latin took the lead for good when Okwara took a pass from Callie Kennedy and scored.
“Country Day and Ravenscroft are both great squads,” Horton said. “Our girls just kept battling, and some things went our way. I’m just so proud of our girls.”
The Hawks roster also includes Libby Lamb, Ellie Shield, Tyler Cooney, Sarah Barry, Rebecca Jones, Hannah Smith, Meaghan Shimota, Mackenzie Jones and Sophia Hilliard.