CHARLOTTE – Country Day and Charlotte Latin met in the NCISAA field hockey championship about as even as two teams could be.
Both teams entered the championship game with three losses on the season – two each to Myers Park and one to each other as they split the regular season meetings.
The championship game remained scoreless through the first quarter, where Country Day outshot the Hawks 4-0.
Latin didn’t even get a shot on goal until 12 minutes into the second period. Still, the game remained scoreless into the first overtime and nearly halfway through the second before senior Myah Pease found senior forward Caroline Juckett in front of the net. Juckett delivered the game’s only score in a fray in front of the Country Day goal.
It was a 1-0 state title win, and the Hawks fourth straight state championship but this one was much different than in the past two seasons, when the Hawks went unbeaten both times en route to their title.
“We were undefeated for a really long time, but this year we got beat some and we got shaken up and lost some games,” said Pease, a Dartmouth commit. “But we figured it out. We were definitely in a growing year, but we made the best of it we worked really hard every day in practice and we whipped out that state championship.”
Long-time Hawks coach Deb Savino may have pulled off her best coaching job as she replaced nine seniors, many of whom were key contributors.
“I had some girls that weren’t playing much in the beginning of the season, and to see them grow and get to the point to where they’ve come is amazing,” Savino said. “They’ve worked incredibly hard.”
One player that epitomizes the Hawks rise this season is Cece Colombo, the Hawks senior midfielder.
Savino said Colombo just started playing field hockey three seasons ago and didn’t play big minutes on last year’s veteran-laden team.
But this season, Colombo has thrived. She handles many of the free plays and at times man-marks the opponent’s best player.
“She’s awesome and one of the hardest-working athletes that I know,” Savino said.
When the all-state awards were announced following the game, it was the usual Hawk suspects in three-time all-state selections Pease and senior defender Sutton Orndorff who were mentioned before Colombo’s name was called, a huge accomplishment for having played only four seasons.
But, maybe even more so than in seasons gone, this was a total team effort.
Pease and Orndorff shut down the Latin circle and sophomore Grace Crutchfield stopped what Country Day shots did reach the net.
“This season more than ever in the past I feel like people doubted us,” Orndorff said. “But we knew what we wanted and what it was going to take. Every practice we split out and work on how we’re going to keep our next opponent out of our circle. Today it shows how hard we’ve been working.”
Savino said it’s great for this year’s seniors, and especially so for Juckett, Orndorff and Pease, who were freshman on the 2015 team that began this four-year title run.
“It’s all so exciting, but I think the most exciting part is that this is number four for us,” Pease said. “But this one was different for us for sure. It feels really good.”
While the Hawks will have to once again retool after losing seven seniors, Savino said her program is in great shape.
Most of Charlotte Latin’s seventh-grade team was in attendance as were a bunch of second-graders there in part for Latin assistant coach and second-grade teacher assistant Caroline Plyler and in part as the future of the program.
“This one is special because they’re all special,” Savino said. “It’s great to see the support here and the second-graders and the seventh-graders here. I told them one day it will be them, but let’s not have it go into overtime, please.”