Originally intending to field only a junior-varsity squad this season, the Spartans instead find themselves competing for a playoff berth in what may be the strongest varsity league in the region.
Mountain View is 5-1, exceeding the expectations of coach Joe Juter and his players.
“We’ve surprised everybody, including ourselves,” Juter said.
Adam Cook, the Spartans’ leading scorer, added, “I’m really surprised. I knew we would be good, but I didn’t think we’d come together like we have. I think we’ve surprised other teams, too.”
When Juter took the job in September, he anticipated coaching a JV team filled with freshmen, sprinkled with sophomores and rounded out by a few juniors. But some seniors wanted to play as well and, since the members of that class are not eligible for JV, the coach decided to make it a varsity team. “And to play varsity, you had to be in the PAL (Peninsula Athletic League), which is the toughest league in Northern California,” Juter said.
Mountain View has more than held its own, however, losing only to first-place Bellarmine. The fast start has the Spartans thinking playoffs; the top four teams qualify for the league tournament.
“Making the playoffs – wow – it’s four huge steps,” Juter said of the program’s evolution. “I wonder sometimes, ‘How did I get to coach this team by myself with all these freshmen and vie for the PAL title?”
Juter has 25 players, 12 of whom are freshmen, and he’s coaching them without help. The program, primarily funded by parents who initiated its formation, is on a budget too tight to afford an assistant coach.
The Spartans’ lack of resources – and experience – hasn’t translated to the field.
“It’s a nice story,” Juter said. “We’re in our first year and we have one coach, me. The other teams have three or four (coaches), and we’re the only team with freshmen and they make up half the team. I’m proud of that. It’s an obstacle, but (the team has) really worked hard.”
In doing so, the players have formed a bond that has fueled their success, according to Juter.
“It’s everything,” he said of Mountain View’s team chemistry. “It keeps everything moving. We don’t have the size, speed or skill of the other teams, but we have chemistry.”
Cook credits Juter for creating it.
“It’s been the coach and his philosophy and how we run sets on offense and defense,” the senior said. “It’s really helped us come together as a team.”
Although a majority of the Spartans entered the season with club-lacrosse experience, “only three or four of us played together before,” Cook said. “It’s really kind of amazing how well we’ve played together.”
Mountain View improved to 2-1 in league with an 8-4 win over visiting Leland March 25. The Spartans jumped to a 4-1 lead in the first quarter and thwarted the Chargers’ rally by scoring three goals in the fourth.
Mountain View’s lone loss came to Bellarmine, considered the team to beat in the PAL.
“Bellarmine is like an army,” said Juter, whose team fell to the Bells 11-3 at home March 18. “But the score was worse than (the game really was). It was 6-3 in the third. In the fourth, Bellarmine’s athleticism took over.”
The Bells, like Mountain View’s other foes, also held a distinct size advantage.
“We are clearly outsized dramatically every game,” Juter said. “Even the seniors we have aren’t big.”
The Spartans have tried to compensate for that by being better conditioned and more agile than their foes.
“(Our success) has a lot to do with athleticism and that we’re all in great shape,” Cook said.
Cook has been the team’s top scorer since the first game, a 17-3 rout of Saratoga in which he produced six goals. Cook said his scoring is “due to the other attackmen who make so many assists. I wouldn’t be there without Andrew Kramer and Aubrey Myjer and the (midfielders), too.”
The Spartans are scheduled to host Menlo-Atherton 4 p.m. today.