by Andrew Stark
Independence hires two new coaches
Independence High School has hired two new coaches.
Amanda Hawthorne has been named the new girls basketball coach, while Erin Mick takes over the volleyball program.
Hawthorne replaces Natalie Davis, who stepped down to spend more time with her family. The Patriots advanced to the Class 4A state playoffs last year after a 6-18, 5-9 season. Independence returns one of the Southwestern 4A’s leading scorers in junior Laquisha Taylor, who averaged over 19 points and six rebounds per game.
Most recently, Hawthorne has been the coach at Carmel Middle School. She coached and taught in Florida before coming to Charlotte and is completing a master’s degree in sports administration from Wingate University.
Mick takes over for Abbie Allison and inherits a volleyball team that finished 8-15 last season. Mick currently teaches at the Goddard School.
Bulldogs earn Army game nominations
Three Butler High standouts are among the 400 high school football players who have been nominated to play in the 2013 U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January.
Bulldogs Riley Ferguson (quarterback), Peter Kalambayi (linebacker) and Uriah LeMay (receiver) each earned nominations for the prestigious all-star game, which will be played Jan. 5 in San Antonio, Texas, and televised live on NBC.
The players were nominated by the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Selection Committee, which consists of a network of regional coaches throughout the country and Rivals.com. Of the 400 nominees, 90 ultimately will be selected for the bowl game. The next step for the nominees occurs in September, when the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Selection Tour begins. Final player selections will be announced in the fall.
Ferguson, Kalambayi and LeMay – all highly recruited rising seniors – were first-team selections to Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group’s 2011 Football Super Team.
Other Mecklenburg County players nominated for the U.S. Army game were Charlotte Christian defensive back Dez Lawrence, Mallard Creek wide receiver Marquez North, Mallard Creek defensive back Brian Walker and Vance linebacker/running back Larenz Bryant.
Covenant Day athletes named all-conference
Covenant Day School was well represented, as the Metrolina Athletic Conference recently released its spring sports all-conference teams for baseball, golf, softball and girls soccer.
Peter Englert, Taylor Fisher, Travis Hutchinson and Garrett Vaughn made the all-conference baseball team after pacing the Lions to a 23-7 regular-season record and the first MAC tournament championship in school history.
The Covenant Day girls soccer team was represented by four players – Sarah Brace, Rachel Blong, Emily Hicks and Anna Melton – who helped it win its seventh consecutive conference title.
The Lions’ boys golf team had two all-conference representatives: Luke Cooper and Josh Wall.
Independence soccer closes on high note
The Independence girls soccer team finished the regular season with an 8-11-1 record and just missed out on a wild card berth for the Class 4A state tournament.
But what the Patriots accomplished in the season finale was something that coach Abbie Allison said she thought had never been done before – defeating rival Butler. Independence topped the Bulldogs, 5-2, on April 30.
The Patriots were aided this season by a strong midfield featuring Elliot Abee, Morgan Brigman and Kelly Harris that has helped the team on both sides of the ball.
“We have improved our midfield tremendously,” Allison said. “We are so lucky to have three dominating defenders and Carson Ciccareli when we pull her from the outside mid. This allowed us to move one player up to add to our center mid.
“(And they) work so well together to distribute the ball (in positions) where we are most dangerous. This move gave the team a unity on the field. And when they are on, they are unstoppable.”
Brigman moved from center defender to attacking center midfielder, and Abee “is the type of player that you just want more of,” Allison said.
Allison also commended forward Brianna Orsorio and defender Madison Parsons.
Despite finishing the season with a losing record and just missing the state playoffs, Allison said the last game of the season was the highlight that the team will remember. She hopes her players will carry that experience with them into next season.
“It meant a lot for my seniors who came from Butler and to the rest of the girls,” Allison said. “They have wanted it for so long, and when they stepped onto the field it was … I do not even have words to describe it – magic, no, fireworks, maybe? It was fantastic to watch and direct them that night.”
Butler’s Puckett receives national honor
Butler wrestling coach Billy Puckett will be recognized at the North Carolina chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame for his commitment to area wrestling. An induction ceremony will take place on May 20 at the Friday Center on the University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill.
Puckett said his Hall of Fame induction is the highlight of an illustrious career, in which he has amassed more than 300 dual-team wins while coaching at West Mecklenburg, Independence and Butler. Puckett led the Patriots and Bulldogs to state runner-up finishes, becoming the only Mecklenburg County public schools to reach that level.
“It’s hard to put into words just how excited my wife and I are about this,” Puckett said. “It had never entered my mind that I could be nominated, much less actually receive this award. You think about it and how cool it would be, but you also push it out of your mind and dare not dwell on it because it is such an incredible award.”
Lions baseball wins league tournament title
The Covenant Day baseball team began the season with several goals in mind, and as the Lions wrapped up the regular season on May 8, they had accomplished nearly all of them.
They missed out on winning the Metrolina Athletic Conference regular-season championship, which Indian Trail Metrolina Christian won, but the Lions did take home their first conference tournament title and avoided losing back-to-back games all season long.
Next on their list, as they eye the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A playoffs where they are a seventh seed and host Huntersville SouthLake Christian on Friday, May 11, the Lions are hoping to advance past the second round of the state tournament.
“I’m proud of the way the guys have came together to win big games and not get down on each other when we faced adversity as a ball club,” said coach David Houseton. “The real positive is we executed the small-ball game and bearing down when it matters the most. This team has done a really good job of preparing, and we preach, ‘If you prepare, wins will follow.’”
The wins have followed, and the Lions, who have already set a school record for victories, are currently 23-7 overall. They had won six consecutive games before falling to state power Charlotte Christian on May 8.
“This team is also setting a foundation for the future,” Houseton said. “Lately, I have been discussing with the guys, ‘What will people write about this team once our season is done?’ Everything we do is building on a future. I want the guys to come back in 10 years and be proud of the program they help build.”
The Lions are getting great pitching, which should help them as they enter the playoffs. Michael Henry, Travis Hutchinson, James Dillon and Max Mason have kept the Lions in games on the mound, and Peter Englert is swinging a hot bat. Combine that with a productive batting order, top to bottom, and the Lions seem primed for a deep run in the playoffs.
“With the playoffs starting, I want to make sure that we execute what we do to perfection,” Houseton said. “So many teams have a certain style of play, and I just want to make sure that we are prepared to play the game the way we are capable.”
Butler baseball gets revenge, eyes playoffs
The Butler baseball team was unable to win the regular-season finale against Independence but exacted some revenge by knocking the Patriots out of the Southwestern 4A conference tournament on May 3.
Dalton Eisenbath, who is now 4-3 on the mound, pitched seven strong innings for the win, and AJ Larson, Chase Gehringer and Andrew Moser each hit home runs in the 9-1 Bulldogs victory.
Butler, which has a 14-11 record, lost a 4-1 decision to eventual Southwestern 4A tournament champion Providence in the semifinals. But coach Rick Sambrotto is pleased with the Bulldogs’ season, particularly during the second half, when they have improved their execution.
“We’ve played (a) great second half, gotten a lot of early leads in just about every game but lost four one-run games in conference and haven’t been able to finish,” Sambrotto said.
“(Our) offense has been good the last three or four weeks (with) more discipline at the plate (and) getting into hitters’ counts. Pitching has been very good all year, except for a couple games and a couple innings. (We) haven’t always gotten the big out when we needed it or made the big pitch. Same for the defense; when we’ve been successful, if we made an error or bad pitch, we limited the damage. That helped us a lot in the second half.”
The Bulldogs enter the Class 4A state tournament as a No. 5 seed and will open against Davie County on Friday, May 11.
Indy, Butler softball reach playoffs
Independence swept the season softball series against Butler – taking 2-1, 10-0 and 8-1 victories – to help the Patriots win their second consecutive Southwestern 4A regular-season championship.
Independence finished the season with an 18-3 record despite falling to Ardrey Kell in the conference tournament championship game, as the Knights claimed their fourth consecutive tournament title.
Despite the loss, the Patriots earned a top seed in the Class 4A playoffs and will take on Pfafftown Reagan in the opening round on Friday, May 11. The Bulldogs earned a No. 4 seed after finishing with a 14-11 record. They will take on Lake Norman in first-round action Friday.
Giving coaches a ‘timeout’
The annual Coaches Time Out conference will be held June 14-16 at the Marriott Renaissance Charlotte Suites Hotel.
Coaches Time Out is intended to give coaches and their spouses a “timeout” from the everyday challenges they face. During the conference, coaches and spouses are joined by others who go through similar experiences, all the while having the opportunity to hear guest speakers who cover topics such as enriching relationships, improving communication, managing finances, maximizing the coaching platform and developing personal faith.
This year’s CTO conference will be hosted by former Carolina Panthers kicker John Kasay, now a member of the New Orleans Saints. Charlotte Christian football coach Jason Estep and his wife, Leslie, are regional directors for the conference-based coaches ministry.
Guest speakers this year include former Panthers quarterback Frank Reich, ex-NFL tight end Ben Watson, comedic couple Jay and Laura Laffoon, and musician Zachary Kale, among others.
To learn more about this year’s conference and register, visit www.coachestimeout.org/conferences/carolinas/index.html.
Calvary Church hosts sports camp
South Charlotte’s Calvary Church will be the site of the CHAMP All-Sports Camp June 11-15.
Youths ages 6 to 12 may participate in the camp, choosing to play either soccer, baseball or flag football. The camp includes sports instruction, team huddle time, field games, T-shirts, popsicles, prizes and a Friday lunch celebration for families.
The cost is $140 until May 16.
With 18 playing fields at Calvary Church, located at 5801 Pineville-Matthews Road, CHAMP Sports Outreach offers kids a top-notch experience with an emphasis on fun, sportsmanship, Christian character development and athletic skills.
To register, visit www.champsportsinfo.com. For more information, call 704-887-3689.