State champion Knights have new coach while keeping key pieces

Eliza Rich, shown in last years playoffs, scored four goals in her first four games this season. /Doug Coats

HUNTERSVILLE – Things were finally looking normal for the Lake Norman Charter girls soccer team as it approached the 2022 slate. But when Lady Knights were a week away from tryouts, ultra-successful coach David Crutchfield stepped down. Taking his place is two-year LNC boys coach Jason Reichert for a program that went undefeated last year.

“It was a little bit of a surprise,” Reichert said. “They’re a great group of girls, so well connected. You walk in and it’s like a bunch of sisters. It’s not so much like coaching a team, it’s like a family, which is really cool.”

Crutchfield, who is a director for Charlotte Independence Soccer Club, will remain as an assistant and will get to watch his daughter compete for Lake Norman High. Before the state title, he took the team to two other 2A championship games and likely a third in 2020. Reichert, who previously coached at Hopewell, is elated to have the gregarious Crutchfield still on board.

“It’s great to have someone of that caliber,” he said. “Being able to see the little things other teams do to make adjustments. We should have a lot of fun this year.”

David Crutchfield is familiar with players from other teams, like these at Hough, through his work with Charlotte Independence. /Doug Coats

Knights still boast firepower 

LNC lost Asha Means, whose 42 goals were fourth in 2A a year ago, but still have her partner in crime at forward and another future ACC player, Eliza Rich. An N.C. State signee, Rich knocked in 32 goals with a whopping 22 assists, and is confident the Lady Knights can still find the net at a high rate with the abilities of Rylie Cook and Haven Stanley.

“We definitely still have the forwards,” Rich said.

LNC showed off its prowess under new leadership with a 5-0 win over CSD to open the season. Rich scored three times, with two assists from the foot of Cook. It was an ideal introduction for the new coach for his experienced and talented team.

“They know exactly what they’re doing, a lot of experience on the field, a lot of knowledge, maturity and experience, which marks it so much fun to coach,” Reichert said. “You’re really just guiding them at that point. They’re very much students of the game.”

On the other side of the field, a big part of keeping opponents’ shots down is defensive captain Reese Robinson.

“It’s good to have her back there, like a second coach,” Rich said. “She’s gonna encourage us, and it’s good to have someone behind me to get us organized and where to press, just a good leader.”

Robinson is headed to Appalachian State next year. She also scored against the Spartans March 1 on a free kick and is looking forward to passing the torch in the LNC program.

“Everyone is here to win and we’re teaching younger girls and future generations of the Knights to keep going.”

After going unbeaten through 2A last year, the Lady Knights face a dual-prong in heightened competition. Not only are they now competing in the South Piedmont 3A against Concord and Central Cabarrus, but Reichert understands they have a target on their backs.

“We’re going to get the other team’s best game,” he said. “Last year is in the past, this year is right in front of you. You’re expected to play better, at a higher level and you have to win. To repeat is the hardest thing, and that’s why.”

But Rich doesn’t expect anything less than being on top of every game.

“We’re more confident, ready to get another season going, and haven’t seen a drop as much from last year,” she said. “We only have one goal, and that’s to win.”

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