CHARLOTTE – The Charlotte Latin girls lacrosse team’s finish to the regular season didn’t predict playoff success for the Hawks, but it may have gotten them ready.
The Hawks closed the season with losses to Weddington (a team that was unbeaten at the time) and private school powerhouse Durham Academy, completing a three-game stretch of not great play.
That was especially true for the Durham Academy game where coach Nikki Williams said the team played very poorly.
“You never like to lose, but maybe that was good for us in a way,” she said. “We did not play so good, so maybe that was a wake-up call.”
Refocused, the Hawks pounded Asheville 17-4 in the opener of the NCISAA tournament and got revenge in the semifinals with a 16-7 statement win over Durham Academy to reach the finals, a place the Hawks have frequented in recent seasons.
Last season, Charlotte Latin had let rival Country Day get a big lead early, and the Hawks’ furious rally ended just short with a disappointing 11-10 loss.
“Those kids who were here last year sort of got too close and they felt the agony they didn’t want to feel again,” Williams said. “We gave it away last year by getting down and not being in the right frame of mind to get that win. That was a big change for us. They had no panic because they all had a common goal.”
The Hawks had also lost in 2017 to the Bucs, who won seven consecutive titles before getting knocked out in the semis with an 8-11 record this year.
With the experience of three straight finals, the Hawks’ Colombo sisters went to work.
Junior attacker Gracie Colombo led all scorers with eight goals in the championship, a 17-8 win over Ravenscroft on May 18.
Sister Cece Colombo, who is an all-state senior midfielder, added three goals in the game and has meant so much to Latin’s rise over the previous four seasons.
“She’s really the force in between those defending lines and she’s got the most takeaways on our team,” Williams said. “She does an amazing job with turnovers and getting the ball back for us.”
Gracie Colombo scored over 70 goals this season. Cece added 50 goals, 30 assists and also won a school record 130 draws.
Megan Klinginburg also had four goals in the route.
Charlotte Latin’s defense, which had allowed 12 goals per game during that three-game stretch, had surrendered just 6.3 during the postseason.
Junior goalkeeper Emily Harris and key junior defenders Zoe Clater and Carter Barlow helped the Latin defense shut down opposing attacks as the Hawks cruised to their first-ever lacrosse title.
“Our defenders have to go up against these top girls and a lot them are Division 1 players and we’ve been able to slow them down,” Williams said. “If we can take care of the other team’s top players – something we were able to do in the playoffs – it helps us out a lot. We’ve got depth and a lot more numbers than other teams, but if we can take them out we can slow teams down.”
That formula worked perfectly as the Hawks raised their first-ever banner. Williams said it hasn’t always been easy, but to feel what it feels like to be a champion has been worth everything.
“It’s been a battle,” she said. “I started here seven years ago where they weren’t in the top four even. It’s been great to build this and to get the support from the campus, the kids and we have younger kids playing and our lacrosse numbers are up across the board. We almost had 80 girls in the program this year. The momentum has been great and it’s super exciting. We’ve been working really hard to get there.
“Everyone bought into the team goal of winning a championship and I think it was that and the team play overall that led to our success. They were willing to do whatever it took and they worked together as a team in order to make this happen.”