High School Sports

The faces of the fall: The Observer’s ‘Sweet 16’ high school sports stars

Riding with Recruits: Kelley Topiwala

The Charlotte Observer’s Riding With Recruits series returns with a ride with Carmel Christian girls golfer Kelley Topiwala, a Division I college recruit and a serious threat to win the NC Independent Schools Athletic Association state championship.
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The Charlotte Observer’s Riding With Recruits series returns with a ride with Carmel Christian girls golfer Kelley Topiwala, a Division I college recruit and a serious threat to win the NC Independent Schools Athletic Association state championship.

For most area high schools, the sports season begins this week. The big day is Friday, when the 2019 football season begins, but sports like soccer, volleyball and tennis are also getting under way this week.

And we present “The Sweet 16” athletes to watch for non-football fall sports:

Rose Kenny, Charlotte Catholic tennis: The Charlotte Catholic senior looks to finish her high school career with a third consecutive 3A state singles tennis title.

Kenny, the reigning 3A state championship’s most valuable player, will attempt to help her Charlotte Catholic squad, which was 24-0 last season, repeat at 3A state champions.

Kenny, a Division I tennis recruit, is 102-9 in her Charlotte Catholic career with her team going 68-4 in that same span.

Chase and Logan Gilley, East Lincoln soccer: The East Lincoln twin brothers continue to light up the scoreboard at a record-breaking pace for the Mustangs. Both were All-State last season.

Chase Gilley set the school record for goals in a season for the second year in a row, pouring in 45 and dishing out 27 assists last season.

Logan Gilley wasn’t far behind with 39 goals and 19 assists last year.

The Gilley brothers, both Division I recruits, led East Lincoln (22-4) to the 2A state quarterfinals, the best run in program history, and hope to finish their high school careers with another historic season.

Jackson Youngstrom, Providence soccer: The Providence senior forward had a season to remember last year. The SoMeck7 Conference Player of the Year scored 40 goals and had 20 assists to lead the Panthers (17-5-2) to the 4A state quarterfinals.

Youngstrom, who is on the Top Drawer Soccer All-American watch list, spent the summer training in Colombia, South America.

Youngstrom is being recruited most heavily by Appalachian State, according to Providence soccer coach Nicholas Sosa.

Richie Cano, Hough soccer: The Hough sophomore forward wasn’t even on the Huskies’ varsity roster when the season began last year.

But in the Hough’s ninth game of the season last year, Cano was pulled up to varsity and scored four goals in his first high school game against Mooresville.

Cano would go on to net 19 goals in 16 games as a freshman.

Sophie Fischer, Nation Ford volleyball: The 6-5 senior outside hitter/middle blocker had a monster year last season with 618 kills, 345 digs, 65 aces and 51 blocks to lead the Falcons to a S.C. AAAAA state championship.

Fisher is a University of North Carolina commit who is on the Prep Volleyball 150 High School All-American list. She hopes to help her team repeat as state champions and repeat as S.C. Gatorade Player of the Year.

Mac Russ, Marvin Ridge volleyball: The Mavericks’ junior middle hitter played a big role in the team’s run to a 3A state title last year (44-2 overall). She was named the 3A state championship MVP as a sophomore.

This year, Russ looks to build on that momentum and play an even larger part (367 kills, 73 blocks last year) as the Mavericks look to defend their 3A state title.

Russ, who also plays for the Carolina Union Volleyball Club’s National U18 team, is committed to play college volleyball at Wichita State.

Cierra Huntley, Davidson Day volleyball: The Davidson Day senior has helped take the Patriots to new heights. The team is 67-6 in the past three years.

Huntley, a Virginia Tech commit, had 421 kills, 320 digs, 53 aces and 35 blocks last season, helping Davidson Day (25-3) to the NCISAA 2A state semifinals.

Huntley was a part of the 2016 Davidson Day state championship team as a freshman and looks to finish her Patriots’ career with another title run.

Sania McCoy, Ardrey Kell volleyball: The Ardrey Kell senior outside hitter has been a mainstay on a Knights’ volleyball team that has averaged 21 wins per season in her high school career.

This year, the four-year starter and East Carolina commit will play an even larger role as an all-SoMeck7 Conference and All-Region performer (193 kills, 192 digs, 31 aces last year). Ardrey Kell looks to repeat as conference champions and be a legit N.C. 4A state contender.

Amanda Sambach, Cannon School golf: The Cannon School junior committed to play college golf at University of Virginia before she even started playing high school golf (as an eighth-grader).

As a sophomore, Sambach won the NCISAA Division I state individual championship by 12 shots. She helped lead Cannon School to a state team title, too.

Cannon won by — and this is not a typo — 75 shots.

Sambach is also a star on the junior circuit as she is ranked the No. 1 player in the state by the Tarheel Youth Golf Association (TYGA).

Cannon School senior, Sophie Holland, will also play a big role in the Cougars’ success as the All-State performer also returns to helped a loaded team to a third consecutive state title.

Jenna Thompson, South Mecklenburg tennis: The South Mecklenburg senior has been the top-ranked junior tennis player in the state (USTA) since she was 10. Thompson is also No. 6 in the southeast and No. 22 in the nation, according to tennisrecruiting.net.

Thompson keeps living up to her reputation as she hasn’t lost a singles match in her South Mecklenburg career. She’s won three consecutive N.C. 4A state singles championships.

This year, the Clemson commit and National High School All-American hopes to finish her South Mecklenburg tennis career undefeated by winning a fourth consecutive state singles title.

Kelley Topiwala, Carmel Christian golf: For the first two years of high school, Kelley Topiwala was a one-woman team as the only player on the Carmel Christian girls’ golf team.

Last year, Topiwala continued to make history for Carmel Christian as she led the Cougars to a NCISAA Division II state title in their first official year as a team (with teammates Annalise Dale, Sarah Gilbert, and Bethany Welch joining the squad). Topiwala finished third individually.

This year, Topiwala, a Samford University commit, hopes to win the individual title while leading her Cougars teammates to a team championship, too.

Christian Landis, Providence Day cross country: The Providence Day junior enjoyed a banner sophomore season, winning the CISAA conference and NCISAA 4A state titles to earn N.C. Milesplit and Charlotte Observer Runner of the Year honors.

Landis also ran a personal-best 15:25.70 at the Great American Festival last fall.

Madeline Hill, Cuthbertson cross country: The Cuthbertson junior won the Southern Carolinas’ conference (SCC), Union County, 3A Midwest and 3A state titles as a sophomore.

Hill ran a personal-best 18:11.52 to win the 3A state championship.

This year, the only question is can she run to a repeat performance?

One of her main challengers is her own classmate and teammate, Cavaliers’ junior, Leah Helms, who finished third at the 3A state meet a year ago.

Cora Cooke, Myers Park cross country: The Myers Park senior has proven she is one of the state’s best on any surface, whether it’s cross country, indoor or outdoor track.

This year, the defending Southwestern 4A and 4A West Regional champion is eager to prove she can contend for a 4A state title in her final high school season.

Katie So, Charlotte Country Day field hockey: The Charlotte Country Day senior and All-State midfielder returns to try to help the Bucs finish one win better after a heartbreaking 1-0 double-overtime loss to rival Charlotte Latin in their final game of the season a year ago.

So and her Charlotte Country Day team will have plenty of motivation to prove they are contenders again in 2019.

So is equally as talented in the classroom, as she will continue her academic and athletic careers at Yale University.

Sarah Minges, Myers Park field hockey: The Myers Park senior has helped the Mustangs to a historic run as they have won the past three N.C. Field Hockey Association state championships.

This year, Minges (Davidson College commit) will have to play a larger role as defensive center midfielder (four goals, two assists last year) if Myers Park is going to have a chance to four-peat.