For much of this season, the Charlotte Latin boys soccer team has chased hope.
It’s been a while since any Charlotte-area team has advanced past the state semis in the NCISAA’s highest division of boys soccer. Country Day lost in the semifinals in 2015, but it was the Hawks who last claimed a state title for southern Mecklenburg all the way back in 2008.
With Charlotte Latin cruising through opponents and finding new ways to win with their diverse offense and much-improved defense, it seemed like they could be the team to break the recent trend.
The team went through a five-game stretch early in the season where they allowed just one goal. They outscored opponents 53-10 on the season through its first 14 games, all of which they won.
But that came crashing to a halt when the Hawks suffered two injuries in their back line and a stunning 5-4 loss to Country Day, a middle-of-the-pack team hovering around .500. That loss stings worse after the Hawks jumped out to a 3-0 halftime lead and seemed to be in complete control.
Turns out they weren’t.
In the Hawks following game, they lost again, this time 4-1 to rival Providence Day.
A defense that had allowed 12 goals through their 14-0 start has now allowed seven in just the second halves of the past two games and nine total.
Long-time coach Lee Horton hopes it’s a wake-up call for the once-unbeaten and now reeling Latin squad that played Charlotte Christian on Oct. 10 in their final regular season win after South Charlotte Weekly’s press deadline.
“I hope it is,” he said following the loss to Country Day on Oct. 3. “It’s a big thing for seeding. Even though we beat Wesleyan, the seeding is done with strength of schedule and common opponents outweighs head-to-head. They beat Country Day and now we’ve split with them so it could keep us from having home-field advantage all the way, which is huge. That was bad.”
While they have been on a recent slide, this Latin team seems to have it all.
Offensively, the team is averaging nearly 3.5 goals per game with a very balanced attack.
Daniel Derraik leads the team with 13 goals and 13 assists, but he’s had lots of help lighting up the scoreboard.
Braden Panther has scored 10 times and dished out seven assists, Ben McCarter has scored eight goals and dished out five assists and Mack Carpenter has scored eight times and added eight assists.
All four of those players are seniors and a big reason why the Hawks have transformed from a team that finished 12-8-1 last year and lost in the first round to one that has spent much of this season unbeaten.
A big part of the recent surge in goals allowed has been an injury to McCarter that occurred in the Country Day game and the loss of centerback Andrew Cowan.
Those holes in the defense have become apparent, but this team is geared for a playoff run with a much-improved defense centered around McCarter, Cowan and the goalkeeper brother tandem of senior Sam Shumate and freshman Sutton Shumate.
That combination has limited opponents’ goals from 35 last season to just 19 this year.
That, combined with the senior scoring options, has the Hawks wanting to get back to health and get back on the track they were riding.
“We have been playing really well and the defense has been good,” Horton said. “I think guys were exhausted. We don’t sub much in the back (against Country Day). We didn’t sub any except for the injury.
“We have to be better, but we have been playing well. Hopefully, we can get back to it.”