by Chris Hunt
The North Mecklenburg Lacrosse Boosters have decided to disband the boys club varsity lacrosse program at North Meck High.
In an e-mail sent through the North Meck athletics department, the booster club said its hand was forced “due to a lack of interest” from students. North Meck athletics director Kevin Wilson said only three students attended the lacrosse team’s interest meeting for the upcoming 2011 season.
Wilson also said the lacrosse boosters turned over the team’s remaining funds to the North Meck Booster Club – a separate organization that supports the Vikings’ varsity sports programs – which opened a savings account in the lacrosse program’s name in hopes that student interest will revive the team in the near future.
The opening of Hough High School this fall was a major factor in the club’s demise. In the past, the towns of Cornelius and Davidson provided the bulk of North Meck’s lacrosse players, but most of those students now go to Hough.
The 2010 Vikings had 27 players and advanced to the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs after winning eight games for the second consecutive season. Most of North Meck’s players, however, lived in the Hough district, and only nine players were expected to return to the Vikings’ 2011 squad.
One North Meck parent, who spoke to the Herald Weekly on the condition of anonymity, said the booster club made a tough but logical decision to disband the team. She said her son is disappointed to see the team dissolve, but he still plans to play in a top-tier fall league and at Charlotte Sports Center during the winter.
Another factor in the Viking lacrosse team’s downfall was the departure of former North Meck coach Anthony Puma, who left to coach Hough’s boys and girls squads. This fall, 46 boys and 48 girls attended Hough interest meetings. Puma said part of his attraction to Hough is his familiarity with future players, including many who transferred from North Meck, Hopewell and Lake Norman Charter.
“Hough was a great fit because the athletics department is very supportive of lacrosse and it was a place where I can be loyal to many of the area players,” Puma said. “I am excited for the challenges of starting a new program, as are many of the players, but I am confident that there will be a bright lacrosse future at Hough.”
The North Meck club varsity program lasted just two seasons. Before that, it was a club sport, which had no affiliation to the high school or the NCHSAA. The North Mecklenburg Lacrosse Club was founded in 1994 and became an influential program in the Lake Norman area.
As a club sport, the roster was comprised of players from schools such as Hopewell, North Meck and Mallard Creek, which didn’t offer lacrosse to students. Home-schooled players were also invited to participate. Thanks to the efforts of North Meck Lacrosse Club supporters, North Meck and Hopewell held their first seasons of club varsity lacrosse in the spring of 2008.
Former North Meck Lacrosse Club coach Chris Diamond was an assistant for the program’s first two seasons and took over as head coach for the next 12 years. He said he helped recruit nearly 40 players each year to field the team. The North Mecklenburg Lacrosse Club, he said, provided strong footing for area high school teams.
“My goal back then was to legitimize lacrosse in the Lake Norman area, and when (North Meck Principal) Joey Burch agreed to make it a club varsity program, I turned the program over to Coach Puma because he was a North Meck teacher,” said Diamond, now an assistant at Charlotte Catholic.
“Many of our teams developed players for schools like Lake Norman Charter, East Lincoln, Hough and Hopewell. It crushes me that those kids at North Meck don’t have a lacrosse season for their senior year.”
Lake Norman Charter boys coach Terry Gobble was a supporter of the North Mecklenburg Lacrosse Program before taking over the Knights’ squad. To Gobble, the end of the North Meck club varsity program means more than just losing an opponent on the 2011 schedule.
“North Meck Lacrosse Club has former players on every (club varsity) team still standing,” said Gobble. “The roots of our family tree have just been ripped up from the earth. While they have been transplanted into other area schools and the sport is thriving bigger and stronger than it ever has, we all owe a debt to those who paved the way at North Mecklenburg High School.”
Viking girls to soldier on
Although only 11 North Meck students attended the girls lacrosse team’s fall interest meeting, North Mecklenburg Girls Lacrosse booster Karen Wood said the girls club varsity lacrosse team will move forward with its 2011 season, hoping interest will pick up before next spring.
That could change, however, if the varsity lacrosse club fails to recruit four more players. But Wood expects to surpass that total.
The girls lacrosse program entered this fall with more momentum than the boys. The Viking girls have more proactive booster club support and already have a coach in UNC Charlotte women’s lacrosse player Allie Molchan and an assistant coach in former North Mecklenburg girls basketball player Chelsea McDougle, who graduated in 2008 and earned a scholarship to play basketball at South Carolina’s Converse College.
The cost of lacrosse equipment is also significantly lower for girls, which makes it easier to recruit players unfamiliar with the sport. The boys teams play a more physical style of lacrosse that requires pads and a helmet, but contact is discouraged on the girls side. Athletes need only protective goggles to play for the girls’ squad.