By Emmanuel Morgan
HUNTERSVILLE – The Lake Norman Charter girls’ soccer team is off to a hot start, but coach Justin Valenti thinks the exact opposite.
The Lady Knights are 9-1-1, including 7-0 in the Big South 3A/4A conference after a 1-0 win against Belmont South Point on March 31. Even though his team looks impressive on paper, Valenti feels his team has more to give.
“Our season this year is a work in progress,” he said. “We’re kind of just moving pieces around to stay alive. Because of our injuries, we haven’t even played with a full roster yet, so it’s hard to come up with a plan of attack.”
Along with injuries, the team hasn’t had a substantial amount of practice time. They have only practiced on the field four times because of bad weather and other unforeseen circumstances.
“Our mindset has been positive and understanding all year,” Valenti said. “Because of that, I think we’ve been able to win games … but that does not show the full potential of this team.”
In 2013, the Knights won the N.C. 1A championship. This season, because of reclassification, Lake Norman Charter competes in 2A, which means tougher competition.
“Last year, we were state champions; we have lost a lot of our starting girls, but we still have a lot of talent and that will serve us well,” said forward Riley Kane, whose penalty kick won against South Point.
Kane, a senior and one of three captains, has been a dominant force. She is the team and the conference’s leading scorer with 19 goals . Other top scorers are midfielder Madeline Iknayan (six assists) and forward Erin Iknayan (six goals).
With any reigning state championship, there is usually pressure for a repeat, but this is not the case with Lake Norman Charter.
“We’re just moving game by game and trying to remain conference champions; there is no pressure for a repeat,” Valenti said.
“Our team is a very tight-knit group; we all get along together,” Kane said.