by Cliff Mehrtens

HUNTERSVILLE – Playing from behind isn’t a problem for the Lake Norman Charter boys’ soccer team.

The Knights, for the third straight playoff game, gave up the first goal but rallied to beat Hendersonville 3-1 in the N.C. 1A semifinal Nov. 13. With the win, Lake Norman Charter (19-3-1) advanced to the Nov. 17 state championship match in Raleigh against Southwest Onslow.

Evan Lucas, Lawson Owen and Jean Claude Brooks scored for Lake Norman Charter.

Hendersonville took a 1-0 lead with two minutes left in the first half on a deflected goal, despite Lake Norman Charter having possession most of the time.

“We’ve fallen behind the past three games and that’s not the way we want to play it,” Lake Norman Charter coach Justin Valenti said.

“First half, even though we didn’t win the 50-50s, we were dominating with 80 or 90 percent of the possession. Then in the second half, we turn it on or we don’t turn it on. Usually that (opposing) goal is enough motivation for us to say ‘Hey, we’re a better team, let’s get it together.’ That’s what happened tonight.”

The Knights’ deficit was short-lived. Lucas tied the game on a free kick from about 20 yards away 53 seconds before halftime.

“We told (our players) at halftime that (Hendersonville) was showing a little more heart,” Valenti said. “We knew that skill-wise, speed-wise and game play-wise we were the better team. Even though we had chances, we were giving up on those 50-50 balls. When the ball was free, we weren’t getting it.”

That changed quickly for the Knights in the second half.

Owen, breaking down the middle, corralled a long pass from Will Silva and drilled a low shot to the goalkeeper’s right for a 2-1 lead with 15 minutes left.

“I was a little nervous at first, but once I hit it, I knew it was a good shot,” Owen said. “We were dominating the second half, so it was about time a goal came. It put us over the edge and brought up the intensity of our team.”

The clincher came when Brooks – who doubles as placekicker on the football team – drilled in a rebound with a low shot that gave Lake Norman Charter a 3-1 lead less than four minutes later. He sprinted to the sideline and capped the celebration with a sharp hip-shaking dance move.

“We try to be a possessive team,” Owen said. “Most of the teams in 1A just try to kick and run after it. We try to play opposite of that. Tire the other teams out, possess the ball and use our skills and our feet. Once we can do that, and possess the ball, we can really disrupt the other team.”