You should never take anything for granted.
It’s an unfortunate lesson that many high school student-athletes across the state, as well as the country, are just now learning the hard way.
“For a lot of us … most of us … this was supposed to be the year we went out on top,” said Isaac Kaufman, senior captain of the Lake Norman Wildcats men’s lacrosse team.
This comment came in the wake of the recent decision by the NCHSAA to suspend spring athletics until May 18, following Gov. Roy Cooper’s decision to keep public school doors closed until May 15.
Kicking off the season with a rematch of a second-round playoff loss against the Page Pirates, the Wildcats came out of the gate with a commanding 16-4 victory.
“We wanted to send a message to everyone else in the state that we were going to be legit this year,” Kaufman said.
The following two games found the Lake Norman lacrosse team competing in the annual King of Spring lacrosse tournament in Raleigh, where they suffered losses to two of the nation’s top teams, Calvert Hall and Loyola Blakefield. Yet, head coach James Brugger said that he “felt good” coming out of the tournament.
“We have one of the toughest schedules in the country,” he said, “I do that on purpose.”
Despite the losses, the outlook for the 2020 spring season looked positive from Brugger’s perspective.
“We had the horses to win,” he said.
But, then the outbreak of COVID-19 reached North Carolina. On March 10, Cooper declared a state of emergency and, shortly after, on March 12, the NCHSAA released a statement suspending all high school spring sports until April 6. This came as a blow to student-athletes and coaches alike.
Suddenly, what was once the beginning of a promising season came to a screeching halt, and with the COVID-19 situation continuing to escalate on both the local and global scale, hopes that the season would resume continued to dwindle.
“I just want a glimmer of hope,” said Brugger prior to Cooper’s extension, “with a lot of these kids, we’ve been together since they were in second or third grade.”
Of the 18 graduating seniors on the team, only seven are going on to continue their lacrosse careers at the collegiate level. For many others, winning a state championship for the Wildcats would be the pinnacle of their lacrosse aspirations.
“The group who suffers the most from this is the seniors,” said Lake Norman High School Athletic Director Jay Keener. A lost season would spell the end for many lacrosse careers and with it the dreams of many players to win a state title.
However, a slim glimmer of hope remains, as NCHSAA commissioner, Que Tucker, commented that she thinks “it’s important to keep this decision open as long as possible.” Despite the recent decision to keep schools closed until May 15, the spring season has not yet been canceled.
All that remains for the Wildcats is to hope that their season has not ended before it had a chance to truly begin.