It's not often a team changes its identity overnight. But the Whatcom Warriors lacrosse team has found a way to do just that with leaders like goalie Andrew Hoemann.
Warriors coach Jarrett Speith said the team used to have a reputation as the team nobody wanted to play because they always got into fights. Now, he said, they're the team nobody wants to play because they're good.
Before the season started, Hoemann and a couple of other team leaders rounded up the players and began to practice - without coaches. Regulations stated no contact could be made between players and staff during the offseason, but that didn't stop Hoemann from getting his team ready for the season.
And it has paid off as the Warriors went 11-0 in the regular season and is ranked third in the state heading into the postseason.
"We were really focusing and trying to get ready for our upcoming season," Hoemann said. "I set those practices up about a month before the season started and got some help from parents to get field times and scrimmages."
Hoemann said he took drills he learned while playing on select teams and introduced them to his teammates. There has been an increase in the players' abilities from last year, when the team went 8-5, because of the time put in.
Speith has seen an increase in the skills as well and said his defense is one of the best in the state.
"The team plays a full-throttle lacrosse style, and they only have one speed - fast," Speith said. "But the thing is, they are fast but they don't rush. They don't make little mistakes and are really disciplined. It's like day and night from a couple years ago."
Speith credited much of the success to his captains. He said Hoemann runs the show from the back on the field and he doesn't even worry about them during the game because he knows Hoemann will keep them together.
"He's very vocal. He has a very high skill set but what sets him apart is his leadership and confidence," Speith said. "He recognizes what needs to happen defensively, and he's not scared to tell me if he thinks even I am doing something wrong."
But Hoemann won't take all of the credit for this season. He said his defense has stepped up and shut down the attacking players and forced them to take bad shots.
The defense only has allowed an average of 7.45 goals per game, and only four times allowed a team to score in the double digits.
The junior at Sehome is hoping to play after high school, but right now his focus is on the postseason and the next game.
"They're going to be harder games than we have played and we need to have that mentality," Hoemann said. "We can't think that since we are undefeated we will get automatic wins. We need to work for it and our focus needs to be there."
Reach Kyle Elliott at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2271.