Top 10 Sport Stories of the Year
by Staff Writer
It’s also been a year of change and great optimism with a new public school (Cornelius’ Hough High) and two private schools (Davidson Day and Lake Norman Christian) joining the varsity sports ranks.
Here’s a look at the top 10 sports stories for 2010:
1. North Meck girls soccer wins 4A state title
There was nothing magical about the North Mecklenburg girls soccer team after its first eight games of the 2010 season. The Vikings struggled to a 4-3-1 mark and certainly didn’t resemble a state powerhouse. But the 2010 Vikings proved that it’s not always about the way a team starts the season.
North Meck went on to win its last 10 games, highlighted by a thrilling 2-1 upset victory over high-powered Wilmington Hoggard in the Class 4A state finals. After 110 minutes of grueling play, including 80 minutes of regulation, two 10-minute overtime periods and two five-minute sudden-death periods, it all came down to the effort of finals Most Valuable Player Emily Rusk.
The North Meck goalie made two critical saves facing eight penalty shots. After Rusk’s heroics, junior Lisa Meyers converted the final shot to clinch the Vikings’ only team state championship in 2010.
2. Sarah Mooney makes All-American softball team
North Mecklenburg catcher Sarah “Boomer” Mooney would be the last person to brag, but she’s more than just a pretty good softball player. Mooney was an all-state selection in each of her first three seasons, but she made national headlines last summer when she was named to the Louisville Slugger/NFCA High School All-American First Team by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.
In 2010, Mooney crushed 10 home runs, knocked in 43 runs and finished with a batting average above .600 – and that’s with teams pitching around her. She also was the Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group’s 2010 Softball Player of the Year.
This fall, Mooney signed her National Letter of Intent to play at Virginia’s James Madison University.
3. Eric Davis says goodbye to Titans hoops program
For nine seasons, Eric Davis was the only boys basketball coach Hopewell had ever known. But after the 2009-10 season, the celebrated Davis surprised many by taking a job at Shallotte’s West Brunswick High, near Wilmington.
Davis cited family reasons for leaving the Titans program, which he built into a 4A state title contender that reached the 2008-09 Western Regional finals and finished with a 28-1 record. The Titans were 157-82 (.657) under his watch and won their third consecutive regular-season I-MECK 4A conference title last season.
Before taking over at Hopewell, Davis was an assistant coach at his alma mater, North Mecklenburg High, from 1997 to 2001.
4. Hough High wins first football game
On Aug. 27, first-year Hough High School’s football team won its first game in school history.
The Huskies defeated Mint Hill’s Rocky River High, a fellow first-year school, 25-6. Hundreds of Hough parents and students made the trip to Mint Hill and celebrated the victory as if it were a state championship. That night, football officially arrived at Hough High.
One week later, the Huskies delivered their team’s first winning streak, defeating Waddell, 16-0, in their inaugural home game. It would be Hough’s last win of the season, but it left the Huskies excited about an unlimited future.
5 Sullivan leaves North Meck for Davidson Day
For three years, talented 6-foot-8 forward Bernard Sullivan was expected to lead the North Meck boys basketball team back to the 4A state finals. But even with multiple scholarship offers in hand, Sullivan shocked the Lake Norman-area by transferring from North Meck to play his senior season at Davidson Day.
Sullivan was one of three Vikings to leave for the Patriots, along with seniors Phillip Anglade and D.J. Cernegie. The Viking trio joined three Concord Cannon School transfers – brothers Keith and David Belfield, and Jason Eddie – at Davidson Day, creating quite a stir on the local basketball scene.
This fall, Sullivan signed his National Letter of Intent to play for Clemson University after receiving scholarship offers from well over a dozen schools, including Maryland, Wake Forest, Purdue, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Penn State, Xavier and Marquette. Belfield signed with Furman University.
6. Strahan out at Lake Norman Charter
The sudden resignation of Lake Norman Charter coach Tommy Strahan in the spring before the Knights’ first season of varsity football left many parents angry about the treatment of the coach and divided on the direction of the Knights’ athletic program.
The reason? Strahan accused Lake Norman Charter Managing Director Tim Riemer of misleading him regarding his future with the school and the football program.
In a public meeting with Lake Norman Charter parents days later, Riemer refused to offer details surrounding the coach’s departure because it was a personnel matter but announced he had already found Strahan’s replacement: Bob McKay, who coached the Knights in 2010.
After leading the Knights through their first season of junior varsity football in 2009, Strahan returned to North Meck’s football program as an assistant coach for the Vikings this fall.
7. Hopewell’s Michael Russell returns to play football
Had you’d seen Hopewell shortstop Michael Russell lying on the ground, writhing in pain in the baseball team’s season opener last spring, you’d understand why it was such a big story when the three-sport star took the field for the Titans’ football’s season opener in the fall.
Russell missed his entire junior season of baseball after a West Mecklenburg base runner did more than break up Russell’s throw to home; he also broke Russell’s right tibia and fibula. Hopewell coach Chet Greeson said it was the most gruesome injury he’d ever seen.
Just six months later, Russell was on the football field against West Meck. Boasting a titanium rod in his leg, Russell intercepted a pass and returned a fumble 93 yards for a touchdown in the 23-9 victory.
On Nov. 17, Hopewell’s three-sport standout – he’s also on the basketball team – signed his National Letter of Intent to play baseball at the University of North Carolina.
8. SouthLake volleyball earns state title
For three consecutives seasons, SouthLake Christian Academy’s volleyball team came just short of winning a state championship, falling each time in the semifinals. But in 2010, the Eagles’ perseverance paid off with a thrilling 3-1 victory over Asheville Christian to win the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 2A state title.
SouthLake junior Kayla Summer delivered the final point, crushing a spike past her adversaries, a moment she said made time stand still. All-conference setter Meghan Bentley and teammate Christina Ford were the only two seniors on the squad that finished with a 25-5 record.
9. Skidmore, Queen hired at Hough
On Feb. 8, Hough High School’s athletics department released the names of the first eight coaches hired to lead the program. Two of those names, however, affected more than just the first-year school.
Popular North Meck coaches Tim Queen and Sandi Skidmore joined the Huskies after serving as stellar examples in the Vikings’ athletic department. In 2009, Skidmore’s volleyball squad reached the Class 4A Western Regional finals. Queen won five consecutive conference championships with the Vikings, and his boys captured the 4A swimming title in 2009.
But the idea of following the young athletic talent they had coached for several seasons to Cornelius was too much to ignore. A brand-new facility was added incentive. Early this season, Queen’s Huskies defeated his former school in head-to-head competition, and Skidmore’s squad upset highly touted Hopewell in the second round of the state playoffs.
10. Downing and Brooks become Wildcats
It’s quite an unusual story that Hopewell boys basketball teammates Jordan Downing and DéMon “Boots” Brooks accepted scholarship offers to the same school. Most heralded teammates go their separate ways after high school. The most interesting aspect of the former Titans’ story is, however; the path they took to join nearby Davidson College’s basketball program.
Downing committed in the summer of 2009, and as of the winter of 2010, Brooks was locked up with Howard University. But when Howard coach Gil Jackson was let go, Brooks was granted a release from his National Letter of Intent. After his second trip on the recruiting trail, including a few personal pleas from Downing, Brooks chose the Wildcats.
It appears both made the right choice. After 11 games as freshmen this season, the two have played more than nine minutes a game. Brooks is averaging 7.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, while Downing is chipping in five points per contest.