Chesapeake goalie Michele Julian remembers the first day of practicethis spring and the profound, though unsettling, words of girls lacrosse coach James Buchan.
"He sat us down and started listing goals," the senior recalled. "He said we had the potential to go to the playoffs and have a really good season. I think, at first, it kind of intimidated us, but as we began to practice, we realized it was reallypossible and I think that ended up inspiring us."
Led by senior attacker Diane McBee's 73 goals and 17 assists, theCougars won their first 14 games and reached the Class 4A-3A state finals, where they lost to rival Severna Park, 9-5, May 18.
By then, the 1991 campaign already was a rousing success, with Chesapeake doubling its win total of the previous year and extending its season anextra three games.
For their efforts in leading the program to its most productive season ever, Buchan and McBee have been chosen the Anne Arundel County Sun Girls Lacrosse Coach and Player of the Year.
Another Cougars senior, defender Sherri Malloy, also took Buchan'sspeech to heart.
"He's always been really supportive and he's hadthis personal interest in us as a team. And with that, that kind of instilled in us an inspiration to go as far as we could go," she said.
"He believed in us," Julian said, "and when the coach does, it spreads."
Buchan is quick to pass along the credit to his assistants, Jerry Raab and Earl Eckhardt, and the players themselves, led by McBee and fellow All-County selections Malloy, Julian (184 saves) and senior midfielder Julie Smith (52 goals, 11 assists).
Such a collective effort not only enabled the Cougars to improve on last year's 7-4-1 record, but also gave them a first-ever county championship.
"We thought they'd be very good, but there was a lot of chemistry," said Buchan, who just completed his fifth season.
"I know what Diane is capable of, and what Julie and Sherri and Michele are capable of, but some of the other kids, when they would step in . . . there were a couple games where we put in kids who hadn't been playing much and they ran the delay game as well as we could ask. We (the coaches) were like, 'We taught them that.' It was pretty neat."
Buchan doesn't like calling this season his most satisfying, preferring not to compare one team to another.
Still, he said, "This was probably the best bit of potential and actuality I've ever had.
"I also like the way this team conducted itself. They said the right things to one another and they did the things they were supposed to do."
They didthe unexpected, as well, like ending Severna Park's 57-game winning streak with a 17-16 overtime win April 19.
The victory, Chesapeake's first over the Falcons, primarily was delivered by McBee, who shredded Severna Park's defense for eight goals and netted the equalizer with one second left in regulation to force the extra session.
"The kids know that when she's got the ball, she can do something with it. Diane seemed to be the kid who could feel those kind of situationsand be successful with them," Buchan said.
"I think they all realize Diane has worked for what she's got. It's not like we said, 'OK, Diane, here's the ball, go score goals.' She worked to do what she did."
McBee, 18, who played defensive wing as a sophomore, never expected to so easily surpass her output of 36 goals and 13 assists lastseason. But her coach had other ideas.
"It's kind of funny," she said, "because at the beginning of the year he said, 'I want at least65 goals and 10 assists out of you this year.' And I was like, 'No way. Do you know how many goals that is?' "
He did, and McBee exceeded his expectations, though not necessarily by design.
"I think the kids understood we weren't setting up plays for a particular player," Buchan said. "I know Diane scored a lot of goals, but whoever is playing that position, the ball comes to you and this is what you do.If you get the time and have the talent, then you'll score."
McBee said, "I usually was the last step. With everyone passing the ball around, finally I'm the last step."
A step in the right direction -- to heights never before reached at Chesapeake.
"We had a lot offun," Buchan said. "And I liked these kids all year -- win, lose or draw. I'm just tickled to death with these kids."