Friday, May 21, 2010

Former UNCC coach Neil Roberts pushing N. Meck soccer deep into playoffs

Neil Roberts has shown he can win at nearly any level. After successful stints as head girls' soccer coach of UNC Charlotte (1999-2005) and East Carolina (1995-98), Roberts decided to move back to the high school level for family reasons.

For the past five seasons at North Mecklenburg, Roberts has won 74 games, including four straight conference championships.

"I think the biggest difference between college and high school soccer, is here (at North Meck), you don't recruit, you have to play the hand you're dealt," Roberts said. "I was really lucky to come to a place like North Meck, where we always have great kids and great talent."

This season has been the best to date, as the Vikings are 18-3-2, No. 5 in the state, going into tonight's state quarterfinal meeting with Lake Norman. North Meck, who won the I-Meck conference in its inaugural year, has been even better in the postseason, allowing only one goal in the playoffs.

"Our first goal was to be the first I-Meck (conference) champions, and we didn't look past that," Roberts said. "We are a 'win-the-next-game' type of team really, but I told our girls that it would be difficult for them to ever be on a more talented high school team. We know that we have everything it takes to do something special."

North Meck is fueled by a suffocating defense that has allowed only 11 goals in 23 games, led by sophomore goalkeeper Emily Rusk, who has 16 shutouts. But Rusk hasn't done it alone, as defenders Lindsey Byrne, Erin McNulty, Megan Sullivan and Tara Zartman don't give up the opportunity to score that often.

"I think our team expects to win and expects to be one of the best teams in the state," Roberts said. "We like the challenge of playing the best teams. We look forward to the challenge of trying to win it (all) each season."

-- Special Correspondent Jay Edwards

Read more: