When Charlotte Catholic junior Natalie Wallon scored her fifth goal of the game in the Cougars’ 9-7 win over Westminster (Ga.) on March 29, she wasn’t sure why all of her teammates immediately surrounded her with hugs and cheers after the score.
“I had no idea what was going on,” she said laughing. “They were all telling me congratulations and cheering for me which was weird because I thought it was just a normal goal.”
What Wallon didn’t realize until moments later was that she had just tossed in her 200th career goal – a rare feat in high school, and especially rare for a junior. The 5-foot-3 midfielder and Syracuse commit has played on the varsity lacrosse team at Catholic since her freshman year, and her impact has been obvious. They’ve gone 41-5 since Wallon joined the squad with two state title appearances. Last season, she recorded 99 goals, 27 assists, 42 ground balls and 75 takeaways as a sophomore, making her the fifth-highest scorer in N.C. High School Athletic Association
This season, she’s already leading the Cougars in nearly every statistical category. She’s racked up 63 goals, 71 ground balls and 34 takeaways through April 9 helping the Cougars jump to a 12-1 start. But for Wallon, that’s not enough.
“When I scored my 200th goal, it was exciting but I still want to keep doing more,” she said. “It’s hard not to think about a state championship. On this year’s team, we’re all best friends – really, we’re like sisters. On the field we’re communicating and getting so much better because we connect with each other. So those are the things that I’m focused on and of course a championship.”
Even with Wallon’s big contributions on the field and team-first attitude – last season she tallied 34 goals in the Cougars four playoff games – it hasn’t been enough to clinch the coveted state title just
The Cougars grabbed the inaugural NCHSAA lacrosse title in 2010 but haven’t been able to repeat their former success despite two additional championship appearances. In 2012, the Cougars fell 17-6 to Cary Green Hope and last year they lost a 15-13 heartbreaker to East Chapel Hill. But this year, with all the members from the 2010 championship team graduated, coach Denise Bier said the desire to win another title is higher than ever.
“That group has graduated,” she said. “Those freshmen are all gone now. This group of girls, they know what it feels like to get to the state championship game and lose. Honestly, I think that’s the best thing for them. They’re really good and they look out for each other and they’re great players, but that’s the driving force that keeps them working hard.”
Bier, who joined the Cougar family in 2007, has been an integral part of the continued success of the lacrosse program. Since taking over as coach, the Cougars have gone 104-19 but the former Hofstra University (N.Y.) standout said that it’s the girls who have made the program so successful.
“We just continue to get really great athletes,” she said. “I think that success usually leads to continued success. It leads other girls to want to play. Younger girls will say, ‘Oh the Catholic lacrosse team is really good so if I take up lacrosse in middle school, maybe I can play there one day,’ and then that winning attitude just keeps building. It’s pretty awesome.”
With three NCHSAA championship appearances and one ring to her name, along with Wallon’s Division-I talent leading the Cougars on the field, Bier is confident that this team could bring home the state title.
“We have some tough competition to get through of course but I think all the pieces are there this year,” she said. “As a coach, I have to remember to compliment them as well as correct them to make sure we’re where we need to be and to get that balance. They do a lot of things right but sometimes I’m looking for perfection, or close to it.”
Wallon’s near-perfect play will be a big factor in getting to the title game and her coach is counting on her to continue her impressive contributions.
“She’s unreal,” Bier said. “She’s so quick and so crafty and this year she’s a leader and she’s telling people where to go. She’s so fun to watch, too. She’s all over the place and if a girl goes to pick up a ground ball, she’s got it checked and in her stick before you know what happened. She just really wants it.”
But Wallon won’t be doing it alone. The Cougars are loaded with top-notch talent in senior midfielder Emma Jette (24 goals, 14 assists), freshman attacker Jaclyn Perkins (17 goals, 82 ground balls), senior attacker Emma Armour (Walsh University (Ohio) signee, 12 goals) and sophomore midfielder Natalie Italiano (25 goals, 13 ground balls), among others, helping the Cougars outscore opponents, 183-64.
“The best thing about this team is that we play with a lot of teamwork,” Jette said. “None of us play individually so we’re focused on continuing to do what we’ve been doing.”
Seniors Jette and Armour know better than anyone what it feels like to get to the championship game and come up short. It’s that feeling in the back of their minds that’s driving them to make their last season their best yet.
“Getting second doesn’t mean we didn’t get there,” Armour said. “We still got to the state title game and that’s a huge accomplishment in itself. We’re all proud of ourselves because of that but obviously we want to win. Who doesn’t want to win a state championship? But we’re all really proud of just getting there for two years straight, but I think this could be the
“We want to raise the bar even higher than it was before,” Wallon said. “We’re ready to meet those high expectations. Our defense has come a long way and our offense has always been strong so all the aspects of the game are coming together. Last year and the year before were learning experiences and you learn more every time. We’re excited for what could happen now.”