The Best of the Best

This week, Union County Weekly sports writer Hannah Dockery takes her annual look back on the season that was in Union County sports and ranks her top 10 teams of the season. There was a lot to choose from this year and some teams didn’t quite make the cut. Here’s a look at who did.

1) Marvin Ridge boys soccer

The 2013 Marvin Ridge boys soccer team won the Class 3A state title and is the No. 1 team in Union County.

The 2013 Marvin Ridge boys soccer team won the Class 3A state title and is the No. 1 team in Union County.

The Marvin Ridge soccer team had a banner 2013 season, finishing with a conference title, a Western Regional title and the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3A state championship to their name. The Warriors were the unquestioned No. 1 team in the state, according to Eurosportscorecard.com, and owned the No. 1 ranking in the nation according to Maxpreps.com.

With arguably more talent all over the field than any team in the state the Mavs were unstoppable, throttling opponents every step of the way to accomplishing their ultimate goal of winning it all.

The Mavs finished their historic season with an illustrious 22-1-1 record on their way to becoming champions – a goal that 11 seniors set in place from the beginning of the season. And they were relentless in every game, dominating both public and private powers from all classifications including rivals Charlotte Catholic, Weddington and Myers Park.

Boasting one of the fiercest offenses in the state behind Appalachian State commit Will Green (24 goals, 12 assists), United States Air Force Academy commit Klint Parker (24 goals, 14 assists), state title game MVP Kyle Enoch (18 goals, 17 assists) and Daniel Smith (8 goals, 18 assists), the Maverick offense averaged a whopping 4.67 goals per game with versatility and technical ability that allowed them to occupy multiple positions throughout the course of the game.

But it wasn’t just their crafty offense that led to a title. Behind stout defenders in Jason Corday, Oglethorpe University (Ga.) commit Eric Newsome, Chris Conneely, Richard Van Gurp and goalkeeper Andrew Vlasov, the Mavs forced 12 shutouts including three in the first rounds of the NCHSAA playoffs before edging Jacksonville, 6-5, to win it all.

With veteran leadership in coach Jason Zak and the determination of a roster full of seniors that wanted to see the Mavs bring home a state title for the first time since 2009, there was nothing that could stop Marvin Ridge on the soccer field this season – and nothing did, making them the best team in Union County this year.

 

2) Monroe girls track

 

Reneazia Collins. Akeyra Hailey. Simone Gwehi. Julice Crowder. Asha Jordan. The list goes on and on as the Redhawk girls track and field team was stacked with insane talent in nearly every event. With raw talent combined with experienced coaching in Nichole Jackson, it’s no wonder the Redhawks grabbed their third consecutive N.C. High School Athletic Association championship, despite moving up to Class 2A this season.

Collins has been the headliner for the last few years at Monroe and the North Carolina A&T commit saved her best performance for last, winning first place in each of her events at the 2014 Class 2A state meet including the 100-meter dash (12.42 seconds), 200 meter (25.48) and the 400 (56.39). But she didn’t stop there, anchoring the championship 4×200 relay team with Hailey, Crowder and Gwehi (1:41.65). All in all, Collins capped off her high school career with 15 individual state titles and five relay titles to her name.

But it takes a team effort to bring home three consecutive state titles and that unity hasn’t been lacking for the Redhawks in the least. Hailey and Jordan were both state runners-up in their hurdle events and took third place in their field events (long jump, shot put) while Bria Roddy placed third in the discus and a host of other Redhawk performers took to the podiums.

The Redhawks made it known that they were the team to beat in 1A competition in 2012 and 2013 and with their new classification in 2A, they set the same expectations for 2014. They’ll lose Collins and several other top contributors to graduation but it’s likely that the Redhawk track and field legacy is here to stay.

 

3) Monroe football

 

What a year for the 2013 Redhawk football team, marking the most successful season the school has seen in at least 24 years.

The reigning Rocky River conference champions and 2A Western Regional champions quickly made a name for themselves this season with an explosive offense and stingy defense commanded by a group of gifted seniors in Wake Forest commit Jaylan Barbour, Charlotte 49er signee Tre’Shun Wynn, Winston-Salem State commit DeQuavis Allen, Elizabeth City State commit Ashad Byrd as well as top-tier talent in Julius Stradford, Isaiah Thomas and Montez
Rorie.

Those seniors made for dangerous weapons in each phase of the game as their up-tempo offense averaged 34 points per game while limiting opponents to just 13. Wynn (1,063 yards, 16 TDs) was one of two 1000-yard rushers, teaming with junior Chase Byrum (1,661, 21 TDs) to give freshman quarterback Zephaniah Wall another option on the ground. When Wall took to the air, he had a capable target in Barbour (858 yards) to haul in passes, making the Redhawk attack nearly unstoppable.

On the other side of the ball, linebackers Byrd and Thomas were all over the field breaking up passes and Allen anchored an especially tough line, limiting opponents to fewer than 10 points in nine games on their way to a 13-3 record and 2A state title game appearance.

Though their hopes for a championship fell short to High Point T.W. Andrews in the state final, the Redhawks still made the 2013 season one to remember and will undoubtedly go down in the books as one of the best.

 

4) Marvin Ridge girls swimming

 

The Mavericks have boasted a strong swimming program since the school opened in 2007, and this year was no exception. After winning their sixth consecutive conference title, the Mavs went on to have a jaw-dropping showing at the regional meet, where they took first place with 551 total points – 369 points ahead of second-place finisher Tuscola.

And at the 3A state meet, they didn’t let up in the least, capturing the state title effortlessly and finishing with a 75-point cushion ahead of second-place Chapel Hill.

United States Naval Academy commit Lauren Greenberg set the pace for the Mavs at the state meet, winning the 200 freestyle (1 minute, 52.03 seconds) and anchoring a pair of state champion relay teams  in the 200 freestyle (1:39.42) and 400 freestyle (3:34.02). But it wasn’t just Greenberg, as Ashley Baum, Alex Bonfilio, Caroline Hauder and Lexi White all had top-three performances on a team with swimmers that could
perform in any event.

“It takes a team to have this success, and I’m just a portion of this team,” coach Melissa King-Pierce said earlier this year. “In order to be successful as an athlete, you need to be disciplined. This group of athletes have that and most of them are on year round teams, which practice all the time.”

The Mavs will lose Greenberg, but the majority of the swimmers will return as they’ll look to make another run at a consecutive state title – something that’s entirely within their reach.

 

5) Weddington boys basketball

 

It was a historic year for the Weddington boys basketball team, to say the least. The Warriors effortlessly grabbed the Southern Carolinas’ conference title on their way to winning the most games in school history (27) while running off an impressive 16-game winning streak.

But their story doesn’t stop there, as the Warriors made it all the way to the Elite Eight in the 3A state tournament, where a tough three-point loss to Freedom ended their hopes of a title. But they’ll still go down as one of the most talented and decorated teams to ever come through Weddington, as this dominating squad set school records for most points scored in a game (103), most rebounds in a game (56) and most assists in a game (26).

This group was certainly something special, with four guys that could score 20-plus points on any given night. Six-foot-four wing and UNC-Pembroke commit Brandon Watts spearheaded the Warriors’ powerful run, averaging team highs in points (14.1), assists (three), blocked shots (2.7) and steals (2.5) while recording nine double-doubles on the season and pouring in a career-high 32 points against Porter Ridge. It’s no wonder he was named the 2014 Conference Player of the Year, but Watts will be the first to tell you it was a total team effort.

Senior Blake Waud was the county’s most consistent rebounder, averaging 10.1 boards per game while tossing in 11.4 points to record an astounding 15 double-doubles while teammate Jordan Barber dished out three assists and averaged 11 points. But their talented roster continued, with big contributors in Demonta Oates, Chris Trevisan, Jordan Sharpe and Mason
Osepchuk.

It was a record-breaking season for the Warriors, and one that will undoubtedly be remembered for years to come.

 

6) Sun Valley softball

 

Sun Valley sophomore pitcher Brittany Pickett knocked one out of the park on May 20 as the Spartans trailed Ledford, 3-1, in the third round of the Class 3A state tournament. Pickett’s blast led to three runs and a 5-3 Spartan win which advanced them to the fourth round of the playoffs, where they would go on to beat North Lincoln, 8-4.

Performances like that have been the norm for the Spartans this season, where they’ve totaled more wins this year than the last three seasons combined under the direction of Rob Enloe, who turned the program around since finishing 3-12 in
2011.

And Enloe certainly has the talent on his roster to back up the Spartans’ recent run of success. As a team Sun Valley batted .460 with their top six hitters all hitting over .510. The talented roster includes a combination of young up-and-comers like freshman shortstop Courtney Dean (.529 batting average) and Pickett (.571, six home runs) and veteran leadership in UNC-Wilmington commit Hannah Adamczyk (.590).

Now with a Southern Carolinas conference championship already to their name, the Spartans sit 22-5 and are vying for a chance to compete in the Class 3A state title game. They’ve already made it four rounds further than any Union County team, but wins against Enka on May 28 and 30 will have them playing for a state championship.

 

7) Marvin Ridge boys tennis

 

With sophomore star George Lovitt competing at Line 1, the Mavericks went into the 2014 tennis season with a big advantage in Union County. His talent alone could’ve grabbed a win at the game’s toughest spot every time, but fortunately for Lovitt, all the pressure wasn’t on him.

At Line 2, freshman John Hatala quickly made a name for himself as did teammate Avanish Madhavaram at Line 3. The quartet of Hayden Wohlfarth, Liam Florian, Michael Kronovet and Andrew Viditz-Ward competed all season at Lines 4-6 – a good problem for the Mavs to have, with so much talent overflowing that their No. 6 seed could easily vie for a spot at Line 1 or 2 on most other teams.

As the Mavs breezed through the Southern Carolinas conference undefeated – winning most of their matches in convincing fashion – it’s no wonder they found themselves ready to compete for a 3A state title. Unfortunately, their season ended with a 17-3 record with a loss to an  always-talented Cardinal Gibbons team but the Mavs quickly realized that finishing as the state runners-up was nothing to be ashamed of.

“We have some extremely talented, extremely dedicated players,” coach Julie Van Olden said earlier in the season. “In my opinion, we’ve got some of the best players in the state and they get after it every single match. We’re a tough team to beat.”

The same will be true for the Mavs next season, as their Top 6 lineup returns intact.

 

8) Weddington girls soccer

 

Soccer in Union County is nothing short of dominant, so it’s a challenge to pick just one girls team to make it into our Top 10. But the Warriors have put on a show this season,
winning the Southern Carolinas conference and sporting a 19-2-1 record on their way to maintaining a consistent Top 10 ranking all season according to Eurosportscorecard.com.

With some of the state’s most talented forwards in Western
Carolina commit Chandler Arrowood (26 goals, 27 assists) and Maggie Wadsworth (29 goals, 22 assists) alongside crafty midfielders in freshman star Olivia Odle (23 goals, 18 assists), Emily Hilliard (20 goals, 11 assists) and Charlotte 49ers’ commit Virginia Lingo (14 goals, seven assists), it’s easy to see how the Warriors are averaging a staggering 6.4 goals per game. And it’s capable defenders like Cyan Mercer, Remi Roberts and Danielle DeLuca that have helped record a whopping 12 shutouts on the road to the Warriors’ fifth round playoff appearance.

Coach Powell Williams said earlier this year that the 2014 Warriors are driven to make this season memorable, and so far, they’ve done just that with a roster that boasts six freshmen and five sophomores – most of whom play for the Elite Clubs National Team.

The young talent is a testament to what’s become known as one of the strongest soccer regions in the state and for the Warriors, it means that next year could be just as promising.

 

9) Marvin Ridge boys lacrosse

 

When lacrosse season began in the spring, everyone had their eyes on the Mavericks as three of the most capable attackers in the area would return from last year’s conference championship team that went 16-3 overall.

As expected, the Mavs didn’t disappoint. Behind juniors Shane Hanlon (37 goals, 25 assists) and Jared Blum (29 goals, 19 assists) and senior Furman University commit Jonah Moore (31 goals, 45 assists), the Mavericks bested last year’s stellar season by going undefeated again in conference play, becoming the Western Regional champions and recording an 18-2 record that left them as the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3A state runners-up after a tough championship game loss to Cardinal Gibbons.

Senior goalie and Furman commit Riley McDermott was a big playmaker in the Mavs unprecedented success this year, recording 152 saves over the course of his senior season – 19 of which came in the state title game alone where he was named the game’s MVP. And with Camden Porta, Stephen Bauer, Jack Rich and Alex Remme adding to the already-talented roster, it’s easy to see why the Mavs were successful in every phase of the
game.

Their season was just about perfect and included monumental wins over some of the state’s toughest competition including Lake Norman, Charlotte Catholic, Northern Guilford and Chapel
Hill.

They’ll lose 11 seniors, but the Mavs have plenty of talent ready to fill those spots next season as the Marvin Ridge lacrosse dominance will look to be a continued force in the future.

 

10) Parkwood girls basketball

 

Five-foot-ten power forward and USC-Aiken commit Emry Tsitouris had everyone in Union County talking this year as she spearheaded the Rebels’ dominating charge through the Rocky River
conference.

And for good reason, too. Tsitouris was unstoppable on the court, averaging an astounding 24.1 points and county-high 14.9 rebounds this season, while adding 2.6 steals, 2.5 assists and 1.8 blocks to her already impressive stats.

Tsitouris was a big reason why the Rebels went 22-3 and 9-1 with a conference title to their name under first year coach Kate Edwards, but she didn’t do it alone. Six-foot sophomore Brittany Autry was a big force under the basket, averaging 15.9 points and 10 rebounds, while Lauren Brown and Lillian Geehring provided stability from the
point.

Their bid for a state championship fell short in a triple-overtime loss to Thomasville, where Tsitouris poured in an unheard of 40 points but it wasn’t in vain as the Rebels’ basketball team sent a spark throughout the Parkwood community that had the bleachers filled at every game as fans rooted on the Rebels and a team that will undoubtedly go down in Parkwood
history.

 

 

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