With each game, the Peters Township High School girls lacrosse team seems to be a little more sure of itself as the 2013 season progresses.
That's a big comfort to coach Kristin Slemmer, the coach of the defending WPIAL Division I girls champions.
"We've started out slowly on defense in a couple of our games, but we've found a way to get our defense working," the coach said. "We're very young on defense, but the players are coachable."
There is, however, no lack of offensive experience. The team's two leading scorers are Hannah Wilcox and Sarah Bootman, a pair of senior midfielders. Through four games, Wilcox and Bootman each had scored 20 goals.
Ranked No. 1 in Laxpower.com's rankings for Western Pennsylvania girls high school lacrosse teams, the Indians traveled to Upper St. Clair on Tuesday for a game with the Panthers, ranked No. 8 in the same rankings. The Indians (5-0) defeated the Panthers, 18-6.
Thus far, the Indians have scored -- and yielded -- a lot of goals. They are averaging 16 goals scored and giving up nine goals per game. There is some breathing room, but the team can't afford to slip up too much.
Before taking care of Upper St. Clair Tuesday, their most recent victory was a 17-8 triumph against Pine-Richland last Friday night in a rematch of the 2012 WPIAL championship game won by Peters Township, 21-18.
In their most recent game against the Rams, the Indians found themselves trailing by four goals in the first half. That's when Slemmer called a timeout.
"Any time you see your players [dragging] a little bit, you need to call a timeout and remind them that they are better then they are playing. I told them they need to play 100 percent and fight for every ball."
When the Indians fight for every possession and are moving the ball down the field, opponents find them formidable. A crisp passing attack has allowed Peters Township plenty of scoring opportunities with Wilcox and Bootman the recipients of pretty passes, a good number ending up in the back of an opponent's cage.
Familiarity -- in this case -- has led to plenty of Indians' goals.
"Not only have these players played for Peters, they've also been teammates on [club] teams for the past two or three seasons," said Slemmer, who has coached the team for five seasons. "They know each other so well, you could put a blindfold on them and they'd still make the connection. This team has a camaraderie you want on every team."
Success has led to more success. Because the Indians have two potent scorers, opponents have to be aware of where Wilcox and Bootman are on the field at all times.
That gives Slemmer plenty of options.
"I have a lot of offensive sets," she said. "If [an opponent] tries to take out one player, another one will step up. Seventy-five percent of our goals have had assists. Having players who can shoot and pass is something every coach wants on a team."
Slemmer was a product of Eastern Pennsylvania high school lacrosse. She played at North Penn before she played lacrosse at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
She believes the gap is narrowing between Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Pennsylvania in girls lacrosse. That growth in Western Pennsylvania can be traced to younger players taking up the sport. For that growth to continue, she believes, area schools have to take a primary role.
"We start our girls [playing lacrosse] in the fourth grade," Slemmer said. "A few years ago, we weren't doing that. A strong youth program has really helped our team."
Peters Township has yet to win a PIAA girls lacrosse championship. That's an honor thus far enjoyed by Eastern Pennsylvania schools. But there is one player who earned PIAA gold, and that was senior midfielder Caitlin Carey, who played on the Peters Township girls soccer team that won the past three PIAA Class AAA championships.
"Caitlin doesn't say a lot, but she shows her [passion] on the field," Slemmer said. "She'll come out of nowhere and she'll be sprinting up and down the field showing what it takes to be playing on a No. 1 team."