York Catholic girls' lacrosse coach Rob Linthicum had to be honest with his team from the very beginning.
Before the 2017 season even began, he told his team that this collection of Fighting Irish players wasn't the most talented that he's ever coached. The Irish were young and inexperienced, compared to the teams he's coached in the past.
Because of it, York Catholic was going to need to some intangibles to make up for the inexperience — intangibles such as toughness, heart and passion.
All of it was put to the test right out of the gates. The Irish opened the year with games against traditional powers Susquehannock, Manheim Township and Kennard-Dale. In any season, no matter how much talent York Catholic had, those teams would provide a major challenge. But, with this year's squad? It could've led to a humbling and morale-killing beginning.
York Catholic lost the first two games of the season, a 12-11 setback to the Warriors and then a 12-8 defeat to the Blue Streaks. So, heading into their third game of the season, an away contest under the lights against the reigning York-Adams League and District 3 champion Rams, the Fighting Irish were staring at one of their worst starts in program history under Linthicum.
"I haven't started 0-2 to a season in eight years," he said. "The last time I started 0-2 was my first year at York Catholic, when we went 1-13, so it's unfamiliar territory for us."
A win becomes a tie: York Catholic responded, pulling out a thrilling 12-11 victory in double overtime to finally get the monkey off its back and prove to itself that it could not just compete with, but beat, one of the league's best teams.
Or so the Irish thought.
As it turns out, according to rules, no regular-season lacrosse game can go into double overtime. Instead, if the game is tied after the first overtime, it is ruled a tie. So, the league went back and changed the mistake, awarding both teams a tie and keeping the Irish winless.
They finally got in the win column with an 8-7 win over West York on Thursday night and currently sit at 1-2-1 on the year.
However, the record isn't nearly as important as the passion and fight York Catholic showed through the first four games. When the Irish thought they defeated K-D in double overtime (a result that was originally reported incorrectly as a triple-OT win), Linthicum said it was the most excited he's seen one of his teams after a regular-season victory.
While the win was ultimately taken away, it didn't take away anything that Linthicum saw out of his team.
Squeezing in Manheim Twp: When the schedule was released, Linthicum had no control over the Irish facing, arguably, the two toughest Y-A League programs back to back to begin the season. What he did have control over was scheduling perennial powerhouse Manheim Township, a program that won each of the first seven District 3 girls' lacrosse championships, before the Rams dethroned it last season. However, the only way Linthicum could fit that game into the schedule was to place it between Susquehannock and K-D to begin the year.
"I'm a competitive person, so I looked at it and wanted to win all three," Linthicum said. "But, the reality of it is, we don't have the team, the talent and the experience that we had the past couple years, so, an honest assessment of it was that I was hoping to get through the first three with at least one win."
While, technically, York Catholic didn't get that one win, it did show that, despite all the inexperience, this team wasn't going to let anything prevent it from living up to the level set by previous teams. The one-goal loss to the Warriors is a game that could've gone either way. Meanwhile, Linthicum looks at the game against the Blue Streaks and remembers that it was a tie game at halftime, before the depth-challenged Irish got worn down by a deeper Manheim Township outfit.
Linthicum knew this start to the season would be difficult, but he can now look forward to the rest of the season, where things should hopefully get easier.
When it's all said and done, you can expect to see York Catholic back near the top of the Y-A League standings. If the results don't happen to go the Irish's way this year, however, you can at least expect them to put up a fight every game.
"I don't think it's the most talented team I've had," Linthicum admitted. "...But, they have more heart than any team I've ever coached."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org