Pallotti third-year coach Kris Weaver has seen immense growth in his program. If the trend continues, the Panthers could add a few more wins to an impressive surge during which the team's record has improved from 0-14 in 2010 to 4-13 in 2011 to 12-5 last season.
Weaver and his players are confident they are on their way to an even better season in 2013.
"The huge word for us this year is 'maturity,'" said Weaver, who worked as a Pallotti assistant coach from 2006-2008. "And that rings true for us on both sides of the ball. The defense is extremely talented. It's the best defense I have ever coached. Offensively, we have more patience than we have had before."
The Panthers –- which have six seniors committed to play college lacrosse next year and two juniors being recruited by several collegiate programs — are sharply focused on reaching the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association C Conference championship game May 17 at Towson University.
Pallotti lost in a playoff semifinal last season by two goals to eventual runner-up St. John's Catholic Prep.
"Last year, maturity-wise, I don't think we were ready to make that jump," Weaver said, of reaching the title game. "We made a huge improvement in our record. They put in so much effort to get there."
The Panthers clearly feel they are in a better position to make a run at a championship this season, considering their experience.
"We have six or seven (actually eight) guys that will play college lacrosse," Pallotti senior attackman Sam Massie said. "We have great talent and I think our team will be special. Last year, we went to the semifinals and we are determined to take it a step further."
The Panthers have showed that with their work ethic.
"They have put in so much effort this past offseason," Weaver said. "All year long, with workouts starting in summer, and going until the season started."
The Panthers certainly have an abundance of talent and one of the best goalies in the 10-team league in junior Josh Dean, a three-year starter who earned All-Conference honors in 2012 after saving more than 70 percent of his shots.
This season's highlights include a 16-save performance in 7-5 victory over St. Andrews and a shutout of Cristo Rey Jesuit.
"It's a rarity," Weaver said of a shutout. "He is getting looks from low Division I and top Division III schools."
Dean's biggest assets are his smarts and energy he brings to the team.
"He sees the entire game at a very high level," Weaver said. "He is really the captain of the defense back there. No matter what game it is or what the score is, his intensity is contagious."
Weaver and Dean have plenty of confidence in the defense of seniors Alex Phillips (Bridgewater College) and Ben Granata (McDaniel College) and junior Marc James.
Weaver said James is attracting interest from Division I colleges.
Granata missed last season with a knee injury after transferring from Archbishop Spalding.
"Even though we are not giving up very many goals, I don't think that we have peaked on defense," Weaver said. "When we do hit our stride, it will be a thing that everybody in the area knows about."
The Panthers are also getting significant contributions from Massie, who already has produced 13 goals and six assists, and senior midfielders Andrew Jacobs (Hood College) and Devin Morris (York College).
Pallotti is off to a 3-1 start, having beaten Park, St. Andrews and Cristo Rey and losing to defending league champion Gerstell Academy.
The Panthers made quite an impression on Park coach Lucky Mallonee, whose team plays in the B Conference.
"I think they are a very nice C Conference team," Mallonee said. "They moved down from the B Conference a few years ago (in 2010) and they were really poor. But they have a coach who has injected some enthusiasm into the program. They have a couple of kids I wouldn't mind having."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun