Sports Shorts for March 23

by C. Jemal Horton and Andrew Stark

Major conference changes possible for south Charlotte schools
On March 16, the N.C. High School Athletic Association released its third – and final – conference realignment proposal, which could result in some major changes for south Charlotte high schools if it is approved.

Under one scenario in the proposal, Myers Park would be the only south Charlotte school in a conference that also would include Garinger, East Mecklenburg, Indian Trail Porter Ridge, Mint Hill’s Independence and Rocky River high schools, and Matthews’ Butler High.

In another conference setup proposed by the NCHSAA, Charlotte Catholic would join Berry Academy as the only Class 3A team in a league with Class 4A schools Ardrey Kell, Providence, South Mecklenburg, Harding, Olympic and West Mecklenburg.

In May, the NCHSAA Board of Directors will vote on the proposal to make it final. The new conferences will go into effect for the 2013-14 school year.

Providence soccer scoring goals, playing stingy defense
The Providence High School girls soccer team is off to a 6-2 start and has won each of its first three Southwestern 4A conference games, but coach Tim Long believes the Panthers will have to get better in order to maintain their current pace.

“Our goal as always is to win conference,” Long said. “We obviously have a very tough conference with many teams improving from previous years. Our key (is) to understand the importance of every game and every team we face.”

Senior all-region forwards Logan Vitale and Kate Brandon and all-region defender Tanner Murphy lead the Panthers. Sophomore midfielder Megan Gray and freshman midfielder Ellie Deaver have also contributed to their surprisingly high-scoring attack.

Despite being shut out by Cornelius’ Hough High on March 7, the Panthers have scored 33 goals in eight games. It took the Panthers 13 games to reach that total last season. Behind sophomore goalkeeper Elizabeth Moshier, the defense has allowed just four goals and recorded six shutouts.

Providence’s other loss came against Hanna (S.C.), which, like Hough, is one of the top-ranked teams in its state. Long said the Panthers can’t take any team for granted but, overall, he is pleased with how the season has begun. He’s particularly impressed with how the offense has played.

“We need to work on some tactical aspects of our game,” Long said. “We have to continue to improve not in just our games but in our practices.”

The Panthers are scheduled to play at Butler on Friday, March 23.

Charlotte Catholic girls lacrosse undefeated
The Charlotte Catholic girls lacrosse team already has taken on some of the area’s toughest squads and come away with a few impressive wins, en route to an 8-0 record.
The Cougars had a 16-3 victory over Myers Park, which returned seven starters from an undefeated conference championship team, on March 3. They also have wins over Weddington (a 19-6 decision on March 7) and Waxhaw Marvin Ridge (a 14-5 outcome on March 15).
“I am thrilled with how the season is going so far,” said Cougars coach Dee Bier. “The girls are really working hard.”
Senior attack Briana Storey has led the Cougars and has scored at least three goals in each game this season, including six against Myers Park. On the season, Storey has 25 goals, 13 ground balls and four assists. However, Storey, who has signed with Roanoke College, has been far from the only Cougar contributing.
Freshman midfielder Natalie Wallon has 22 goals, 24 ground balls, 23 takeaways and three assists. Junior midfielder Rachel Wallon has 17 goals, 19 ground balls, 17 takeaways and three assists. Junior midfielder Peri Stassner has impressed Bier as well and has 33 draw controls during faceoffs.
“(Peri) is really standing out for us,” Bier said. “She is phenomenal on the draw and is a huge part of us having possession of the ball so often.”
While the offense is in good hands, defenders Julia Shaw and Amy Bevilacqua have played well, and goalie Danielle Ruffalo allows fewer than three goals per game and was in the net for a shutout against Ardrey Kell on March 19.
With a high-scoring attack and a stingy defense, Bier believes the Cougars could repeat last season’s undefeated conference record.

“To be a championship team, we need to be sure that we take care of the ball on offense, help on defense and play together as a team,” Bier said.
So far, that formula is working for the Cougars, who next host Charlotte Country Day on Wednesday, March 28.

Providence Day boys lacrosse combines balanced scoring, smothering defense
Coming into the season, the Providence Day boys lacrosse team knew it had a smothering defense. And, as shown in a 6-0 shutout of perennial power Wilmington Hoggard on March 12, the Charger defense has the potential to be as good as advertised.

What has Providence Day coach Bobby Thompson most excited, though, is how well the offense has played and how many people have been contributing to the attack.

“The production of our offense has been a pleasant surprise,” Thompson said. “The fact that we have had so many guys contributing to a balanced attack is a good sign.”

Steve Onak has 24 points on 11 goals and 13 assists. Tony Asher leads the Chargers with 15 goals and has been steady in the field, winning 78 percent of his faceoffs. Brendan McArdle (14 points on the year) Jonathan Henry (11), Patrick White (16) and John Bjork (12) have spread the scoring around and given the Chargers a much more balanced attack than Thompson expected.

“(The balanced scoring) has made it tough for opponents because they can’t key on any one player,” Thompson said.

As the offense has been a pleasant surprise, the Charger defense has been good, but at times Thompson would like steadier play from that unit.

“The strength of last year’s team was our defense, (and) I think this group has the talent to surpass last year’s group,” Thompson said. “More consistency on defense will be a key to our success – guys playing as a unit and not as individuals as they have the last two games.

“Our strong point heading into the season was our defense. While the defense has not played up to its potential at times, they have played extremely well lately.”

The defense is headed by Josh Ohaus, Jake Chandler, Matthew DeMay, goalie Mitch Renfrow and Clay Fisher, who leads the team with 12 takeaways.

However, Thompson believes the key to how far the Chargers can go lies in the continued offensive success.

“Offensively, we are much more balanced this year and are having much more success getting to the cage,” Richardson said. “We struggled to score goals last season, so if we continue to get production from our offense that will only make our defense better.”

The Chargers kick off Charlotte Independent Schools Athletic Association play on Tuesday, March 27 at home against Charlotte Latin.

Providence baseball team looking to repeat as conference champion
The Providence baseball team opened the season with a 10-1 record and look poised to compete for another Southwestern 4A conference championship, which coach Danny Hignight has won in five of his eight seasons. The Panthers also want to remain one of the best teams in the nation.

MaxPreps.com had the Panthers ranked No. 20 in the country before they fell to Weddington, 7-6, on March 14, but Providence has more than enough talent to sneak back into the rankings.

“All in all, I feel like we have had a good year so far,” Hignight said. “We are trying to get everyone back and healthy, and I think having everyone healthy will hopefully improve our situation even more.”

Starters Jackson Campana, a Clemson recruit, and Josh Black have missed games with hamstring injuries. Campana is back at full strength, and Black, who was a starter last season, is easing his way back into the lineup.

With Campana, Arkansas signee Ty Buttrey, Richmond signee Xander Maddox and Furman recruit Andrew MacLatchie, the Panthers have as much individual talent as any team in the state.

Hignight said his stars have played well, but a few other players have also had great seasons. Tommy Dejuneas and Austin Proehl have given the Panthers solid contributions up the middle, and Danny Reyes is a surprise starter in left field who has swung the bat well and played great defense.

But Hignight said the key to the Providence attack is senior second baseman Adam Fishcel.

“Adam is really the heart and soul of our club,” Hignight said. “He is definitely one of our leaders and a big part of the reason we get to do what we do.”

Hignight said losing to Weddington, or if they lose to another team in the tough Southwestern 4A conference, does not derail the ultimate goal of winning the state championship.

“We are fine – we just need to do what we do and stay focused,” Hignight said. “We talk a lot about taking it one day at a time, and that is what we are trying to do right now.”

The Panthers hosted Myers Park on March 20 and next play at Butler on Friday, March 23.

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