Northeastern entered Thursday night's field hockey schedule at 5-0. That start is significant because the Bobcats have not won six games in a season since 2004. They have not finished with a winning record in the sport since 1997.
The turnaround could have something to do with the hill behind the high school that stretches from the stadium to a neighboring practice field. First-year coach Dave Marsh fell in love with it the first time he noticed the terrain since his hiring.
"You're going to learn to love that hill," he recalled telling his players.
The 19 of them, not one a senior, probably were not so fond of the hill. Marsh made them pick up tires and run up the hill. To top it, they were required to complete three consecutive 1-mile runs, each within eight minutes with a two-minute break in between. A series of 800-, 400- and 100-meter runs followed on the track.
"It was just really pushing them beyond their comfort zone and then pushing them a little further," said Marsh, who last coached field hockey and softball at Central York until 2010. "I knew with the numbers we have, we were going to be in better shape. Teams like Red Lion and Dallastown can out-athlete us. Then there's those teams that can out-skill us, but they should not be more fit."
Speaking of Dallastown and Red Lion -- last year's YAIAA tournament finalists -- Northeastern still has to play both of them twice. That is why Marsh is not celebrating his team's record yet. He reminded his players, most of whom played on a 1-11 team last year, why they should not be satisfied.
"I equated it to taking a math test," he said. "If you got the first four questions right would you be happy? That's what we've done so far. Do you want to get six through 17 wrong?"
The first four problems, plus a fifth against South Western on Tuesday-- when Marsh made the expression -- have been challenging in their own right. Northeastern escaped the Mustangs with a 1-0 win after Kendra Meyer's first-half goal. A day earlier, the Bobcats beat Division II frontrunner Susquehannock by the same score on an Alexis Zayas goal.
Both shutouts also came with different goalies: Hannah Glover on Tuesday and Erin Hollerbush on Monday.
Marsh's most nerve-racking match was the first. Coincidentally, it was at Central.
"That was kind of weird. I know most of the girls from the Central team," said Marsh, who now runs a sports program at Heritage Hills. One of his ventures includes field hockey club teams, which include players from Central and Dallastown.
Marsh stepped down at Central in April 2010 to spend more time with his two children and oversee his business, M2sports. He also taught physical education at the school.
"I got the itch to get back into coaching once my kids were old enough," said Marsh, who inquired about the Northeastern opening in January.
Speaking of surprise starts: Since 2003, when Fairfield began playing varsity football, its best season produced three wins.
The Green Knights have eight weeks to equal and break that mark.
Fairfield enters Friday night's game at York Catholic with a 2-0 record and the YAIAA's highest scoring offense (the first to break 100 points). Let that sink in if you have been around the league for the last decade.
Coach Darwin Seiler said last month at media day his team's Week 2 game against Biglerville would be "a chance to see how we measure up."
They measured up by 40 points going into halftime.
Quite a racket in Division I: Dallastown's come-from-behind girls' tennis win Tuesday at Susquehannock did two things: It put Spring Grove alone in first place of the YAIAA Division I standings and could set up for a frantic finish.
The Warriors, who now have one league loss like Dallastown, close the regular season at Spring Grove on Sept. 26.
Matt Goul is a high school sports reporter for the Daily Record/Sunday News. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 771-2045 or @mgoul on Twitter.