When Panther Creek advanced to the second round of N.C. High School Athletic Association boys lacrosse playoffs in 2015, it had started the year 0-5 and gave up double-digit goals in each game.
In 2014, before the Catamounts’ first-ever playoff appearance that turned into a third-round exit, they started 1-4.
Now in his fourth year as head coach, Steve Haine is looking to bring that trend back this season, and it all boils down to his squad’s mentality. Haine said that was a substantial difference when his team defeated Holly Springs 9-4 Tuesday night just over a month after dropping a 21-0 decision to the Golden Hawks.
When the Catamounts entered spring break last week, Haine asked them to consider one thing: “What kind of season do you want this to be?”
His team that features 12 seniors, many of whom were present for the Catamounts’ “Cinderella runs” of 2014 and 2015, decided to lock in mentally.
“We cleared our heads and got a clean slate,” Haine said. “Players and teams of the past know that’s a trend, we’re going to get better as the season goes and now the younger guys think that way, too.”
Cameron Sechler said that with all the time the teammates spend together over a season, it’s not surprising that the team has a tendency to drastically improve.
“It’s that team chemistry that builds over the course of the season,” he said, “and I think that really shows with fast breaks, good passes and I think it’s us getting to know each other better.”
After knocking down the Golden Hawks, a game in which Haine admitted he and the team “wanted to get them back,” the Catamounts have a swagger about them that wasn’t present even a few weeks ago.
“If you improve until the end of the year and you think you’re getting better,” Haine said, “you’re confident heading into those important games.”
The whole team is buying in.
“We have so much momentum and confidence right now that we could be an upset team like the team three years ago that beat Leesville,” goalie Nick DeFrancesco said. “I think that could be us.”