Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Country Day brother-sister share state titles

With less than four minutes to play in the NCISAA girls' lacrosse championship game, Country Day's Bella Lovett scored twice to tie Ravenscroft 12-12.

After two goals from teammate Hastings Wilson in the last 22 seconds of the game, Bella became the second Lovett to win a state championship that day.

Just hours earlier, her brother, Lukas, a senior, helped lead the Country Day boys' lacrosse team to a third-straight (eighth overall) North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association state championship with a 9-5 win against Providence Day.

For the girls' team, it was the first state championship in only the second year that girls' lacrosse has been sanctioned by the NCISAA. Last year Country Day was runner-up to Durham Academy.

Winning the championship "was so exciting," said Bella, a junior who scored five goals in the championship game. "It meant so much to us because this program has come so far so fast."

Girls' coach Ed Burnam said the team started five years ago as a club and was recognized by the school as a varsity sport four years ago. The team went 1-15 its first year; this year it went 12-3. Burnam said that having such a successful boys' program at the school also helped the girls' program.

Boys' coach "Brad (Touma) and the rest of his coaching staff from the get-go have been really receptive and helpful with the girls' program," Burnam said. "All of that has made it very easy to start the program up and to get successful."

The boys' team went 18-1, with its only loss coming to Providence Day during the regular season. Both Buccaneer teams earned a No. 1 seed in the playoffs, which meant they played all their games at home.

"It was great," said Touma of both teams winning their respective championships. "It was very exciting. The boys' and girls' (teams), and obviously (Bella and Lukas) are very close. They support each other."

"There was just a great amount of energy this spring and there was a lot of buzz going on the day that both the (championship) games were here," added Touma, who is in his 23rd year coaching at Country Day. The teams "could support each other because the (game) times were staggered. It was pretty neat."

Lukas said many of the players on the boys' and girls' teams are friends.

"I feel like we're pretty close," he said. "We always talk about how both teams are doing well this year."

Bella and Lukas are especially close.

Lukas started playing lacrosse when he was in fourth grade at a private school in Florida; Bella started playing when she was in seventh grade. Lukas said he bought Bella her first lacrosse stick as a birthday present. They moved to North Carolina the summer before Lukas' freshman year.

The siblings have a lot in common on the field. They both play midfield, are both quick and aggressive and both even wear the same number, 26, which Lukas said Bella took from him her freshman year.

Lukas said watching Bella play motivates him to work harder.

"She scores a ton of goals and I'm always hearing, 'Bella had five tonight,'" he said. "It gets a little competitive."

But it's friendly competition. They like seeing each other succeed and constantly support each other.

"I love watching him," said Bella of Lukas, who also played on the football team.

"I get nervous watching him. I just want him to do well."

Lukas scored five goals for the Buccaneers in the playoffs. He played on the varsity squad four years but battled injury his first couple of years.

"He has a great spirit," said Touma. "He's had a great year this year. ... He was one of our consistent scorers in the midfield."

Bella has been named all-conference the past three years and was named all-state this year.

"She's really athletic, and she's very fast and very shifty and hard to guard, hence all the goals," said Burnam.

But despite the goals, "she's extremely humble and she's very, very good with her teammates," he said.

"Every year she gets better. I don't know what it will be like next year."

Things will be different for Bella next year not having Lukas around. He plans to go to the University of South Carolina.

"It's going to be so sad," she said. "Luke and I are pretty close."

But the Lovett lacrosse legacy won't end with Lukas and Bella: They have three younger siblings.

The oldest, Dean, played on the boys' eighth-grade team at Country Day this year, and the next-oldest, Faith, plays for the Charlotte Youth Lacrosse Association.

Lacrosse is a popular topic at home.

"We definitely talk about it at the dinner table all the time," said Bella.

"Especially when we both won the state championship."

-- Corey Inscoe