As Charlotte Latin boys lacrosse coach Dick Sipperly walked into Patten Stadium to lead his Hawks to the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association’s Class 3A championship game, he said he had an uneasy feeling overtake him.
The Hawks had spent the season perched atop the state lacrosse rankings and had a stellar 19-1 record entering a game where they were matched up with No. 7 seed Durham Academy – a team that pushed Latin to the brink with a 3-2 Hawk win on March 7 – so it was understandable that the veteran coach wasn’t sure how his team would respond.
“Matching up against Durham Academy, I had as many butterflies as I’ve ever had,” Sipperly said. “You’re at the culmination of the season and you don’t know if it’s going to go as you expect – that’s why we play the games.
“But the way it turned out is a relief, no question about it. It was the first time all season that we put three real solid quarters together and it was great to give some other players a chance to get some time on the field.”
The Hawks certainly came to play in the championship game, jumping out to a 5-0 lead in the opening quarter and leading 13-0 through three quarters, when Sipperly was able to breathe a sigh of relief and pull many of his starters while coasting to a 13-4 win.
Owen Armstrong led the Hawk attack, scoring five goals and adding two assists. Ross Caldwell added three goals, Jackson Monnin scored twice and added a pair of assists, Denzel Pearson scored twice and Hunter Sheridan added a goal.
But possibly the player with the biggest impact on the Hawks’ offense both in the championship game and throughout the season was junior attacker Carson Song, who didn’t score but tallied seven assists and recorded his 300th career point in the season finale.
“That’s his thing,” Sipperly said. “He really likes to be a team player. He draws a double team but he really looks to that backside to find Ross Caldwell, Jackson Monnin or Owen Armstrong pretty regularly. If we need him to score goals he can score goals, but if we don’t need him to score he’s just as happy dishing it to his teammates. He’s a pretty special young man.”
With Song and Co. orchestrating the offense, goalkeeper Emerson Schaeffer was shutting down the attack, as he left after three quarters with a shutout intact, despite playing the championship and semi-final game with a broken bone in his hand.
That kind of dedication and team-first attitude is what has driven the Hawks to live up to expectations that had them as the top-ranked team in the state for much of the season.
“The team came together and played together as a united group throughout the season,” Sipperly said. “That was one of the biggest charges on myself, was to try to manage the expectations well and at the same time keep our heads in check, not get overly confident and recognize that we have to play one game at a time to be successful and that seemed to work out pretty well.”
Sipperly purposely laid out a brutal non-conference schedule for his team to get them ready for the playoff push and it worked to perfection.
The Hawks had wins over Tennessee’s top-ranked team, Memphis University, who was 16-3, Fort Mill (13-3), Apex (19-2) and Georgia’s top-ranked team Milton (Ga.), who was 16-2 and the only team to beat the Hawks.
The schedule, combined with the talented roster that also included Eddie Goode, Carter Sheridan and Tommy Royther, a trio of seniors who Sipperly praised for a great season, combined into a near-perfect season that leaves the Hawks again on top.
“With this group we’ve been very fortunate and their skills are very strong,” Sipperly said. “We’ve kept them playing together and focused on not trying to do too many things by themselves and keep us playing as a team as best they can. They had a great season and I’m fortunate to get to have a lot of them back next year.”