The odds were stacked against the Charlotte Country Day girls lacrosse team after last year’s N.C. Independent School Athletic Association Class 3A championship season ended. The Bucs have been a dominating force in the lacrosse world in the last decade, but after losing eight seniors from the squad that upset Durham Academy, 11-10, in overtime during last year’s championship game, it looked as though it could be a rebuilding season for the Bucs – especially after they dropped three of their first four games to start the season.
But coach Kristy Boyles knew otherwise, and she prepared for the loss of eight seniors by focusing on the long-term future and pulling up a large freshmen class to the varsity level. She knew that with young talent in juniors Anna Comer and Elizabeth Merlo and sophomores Natalee Palmer, Lucy Pedlow and Riley Harrison that scoring wouldn’t be a problem. And she knew that if she could establish team unity first and foremost, the Bucs could go all the way again.
And just a few games into the season after their shaky start, Boyles started to see her predictions come to form. With a 19-9 win over Fort Mill High School on March 26, the Bucs soon witnessed their former success build up again. And even with only two seniors filling the roster in Mason Lucas and Nelle Kester, they didn’t drop another game on their way to becoming the two-time defending state champions.
“Honestly, winning the state championship again wasn’t a surprise,” Boyles said. “At the start of the season, I knew that if we identified our roles on the team, bridged the gap between classes after losing so many seniors and focused on team unity that we had the heart and talent to go all the way.”
And that’s exactly what they did, blowing over Greensboro Day School, 20-3, and rival Charlotte Latin, 15-9, on their way to meeting Raleigh Ravenscroft in the final game and winning, 12-10, for the state crown.
“Obviously it was a really exciting win,” Boyles said. “We got to see all of our hard work culminate into a championship and the dedication of our season really pay off. We had the mindset all year that we could achieve anything we set our minds to and that started taking form about midway through the season. And we didn’t let it up.”
It was Harrison’s four goals that set the pace for the Bucs against Ravenscroft while Pedlow added three, Comer and Caroline Mangan each put in two and Julia Loesch added another. But Boyles said the heart of this year’s squad was found in senior leadership from defender Lucas.
“Mason was the heart of the team,” she said. “The girls rallied around her and she really led the way this year. I don’t care how good you are or how much talent you have, if you don’t have someone like Mason, it’s unlikely that you’ll end up in the state championship game.”
Behind Lucas and freshman goalie Grace Tabor’s 16 saves in the title game, Boyles saw her pre-season expectations come to life as the game ended and the Bucs took the title. And with a roster coming back nearly intact for next year, Boyles believes this is just the beginning for Bucs’ lacrosse.
“Having those girls back is huge,” she said. “I’m really excited for the junior class to come back. They’ve jumped into a leadership role this season and served as captains and built this team up. They’ll be leaders (and) mentors and with the freshmen and sophomore girls returning as well, it’s going to be