With only four experienced seniors on its roster, the Lake Norman girls' lacrosse team had to rely on its youth.
A core of freshmen played beyond its years and led the Wildcats to an 8-2 record, including an undefeated 6-0 conference mark that allowed the team to claim the Conference 7 championship.
A big ingredient in Lake Norman's success was the play of freshman midfielder Taylor Vaccaro, who averaged more than three goals per game on her way to scoring a team-high 33 goals in the regular season.
Although she's only 15, Vaccaro has probably as much experience as any one of her Wildcat teammates.
Never miss a local story.
Having grown up in New York, she picked up lacrosse in the first-grade and hasn't looked back since.
Schiemer said Vaccaro's knowledge of the game may be the biggest reason for her breakout season.
"She's become one of our leaders - one of our best players on this team," said Schiemer.
Vaccaro is also skilled on the field, using her ability, quickness and instinct to get the upper hand on her competition.
"She's always at the right place at the right time," said Schiemer. "What makes her so good is that when she gets in trouble - seeing double-, triple-teams - she has good stick skills that allow her to get out of it and score."
Vaccaro said she didn't expect to have a season like she's had coming into high school, explaining she had to get adjusted to the level of competition first.
"I didn't think it was going to be as fast-paced as it, but I definitely picked up," said Vaccaro.
It didn't take long for her to make an impact on the team, kicking off her Wildcat career with a two-goal performance against South Mecklenburg and following that up with a career-high six goals against North Meck.
"It felt amazing," said Vaccaro about the way her high school career got under way.
She went on to score at least three goals in every game she played in the rest of the regular season.
But Vaccaro didn't do it alone, having help from seniors Ericha Hartz and Elizabeth Koehler as well as some of her classmates.
Fellow ninth-graders Rachel Valocchi, a midfielder who leads the team in assists with 20, and Roseanna Schiemer, the coach's daughter who's third in goals for the Wildcats, also played key roles for Lake Norman.
"Their ability have helped us a lot," said Schiemer.
Koehler said her youngest teammates fit into the team right away.
"Usually the freshmen aren't as mature and that makes it harder," she said. "But they tried really hard and got along with everybody."
Vaccaro said she credits the seniors for allowing the newcomers to fit in.
"We've come together as a big family," she said.
Coming into the season, the Wildcats admit they didn't know how well they could do after losing so much talent.
"We were a bit worried because we loss a lot of our defensive line and attack from last year," said Hartz. "But the new girls did amazing."
With 28 players on varsity - 20 of them freshmen and sophomores - Schiemer said he focused on fundamentals to get the girls who had never played lacrosse up to par.
"Probably half of them couldn't throw," he said. "Now they're passing, catching, running through plays, working well together."
Schiemer said his team has played increasingly better throughout the year. He said that's encouraging going into the playoffs, which kick off April29.
"I think we have a good chance of winning it," said Schiemer. "It's been a progress getting this team together, but I think we're gelling at the right time."