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Tide return senior-laden team from group that reached state quarterfinals last season.

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Glencoe's Dylan Brauer takes a shot during the TIde's state quarterfinal game versus Sunset last spring.After last season, a year in which the Glencoe lacrosse team won the Pacific Conference and advanced to the state quarterfinals before losing a 10-5 decision to Sunset, the Crimson Tide have a tough act to follow in 2018. But while a higher standard has been set, Glencoe head coach Kyle Tolzman has no hesitation when describing this year's team to outsiders looking in.

"We're better than we were last year, and a lot of that has to do with continued leadership from our returning players, and the younger guys continuing to get better," said the coach. "This team, as it's put together, just continues to improve — and it's a heck of a lot of fun to coach these guys."

The Tide just returned from a three-game tournament in Idaho over the weekend, in which they defeated three teams from Utah, including Holladay's Olympus High School on Saturday, March 24.

"We went 3-0 and had a great game against Olympus Saturday night," said Tolzman of the 7-5 victory. "Guys showed great composure and communication on the defensive end and were making sound decisions."

That's something Tolzman sees as a big difference between last year and this year.

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Glencoe's Brennen Hay (left) and Dylan Brauer (right) celebrate a goal during a game last season. "I'm really preaching calm and collective, and getting the guys to play smart, heads-up lacrosse, and evolve as a team that not only continues to get better physically, but take that next jump in the mental game," he said. "Analyzing where the ball should go, and not where we want it to go."

In years past, the coach had seen his feisty group of athletes beaten down by bigger, faster, stronger and more experienced competition. But this year, he has the experienced team, and — thanks to the leadership of seniors like Dylan Brauer and Drew Messmer — a group of players that can hang with some of the state's best, both physically and mentally.

"This year, we are the bigger, faster, stronger team because we have so many seniors, but we need to use our athleticism, toughness and strengths intelligently to make it a true advantage," said Tolzman. "I've got a team full of confident guys. Now we just have to take that step up IQ-wise."

And he's seeing that happen. His players are no longer reacting to the coaches, taking a proactive approach to strategy and working with the coaches instead of simply listening and trying to apply what they've been told.

"The guys are now coming to me during timeouts and in between quarters, telling me what they want to run based on what the defense is giving them," Tolzman said. "That's a huge difference from last year. It's a discussion now."

And a lot of that has to do with Brauer and Messmer, who spent much of the offseason building their bodies to be stronger and more athletic, by way of weight and diet programs.

Brauer, who's signed a letter of intent to play lacrosse at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah, next school year, attributes much of his success to Tolzman, as well as Glencoe strength and conditioning coach Ian Reynoso.

"I attribute nearly all of my success to Coach Tolzman, who's turned around the whole program and personally motivated me to get better," said Brauer. "Also Coach Reynoso, who through his weight program has turned me more into an athlete than just a lacrosse player."

Despite the obvious success of players like Brauer and Messmer, and the results of their added commitment, Tolzman said it's not easy to get kids to go that extra mile. His programs are built primarily around safety and injury prevention, and they're an integral part of the season. But while some of his kids have dedicated themselves further, it's tough to get them all to buy-in throughout the entire year.

"Our young guys see that our older guys are strong and they feel it in practice, but to get a whole team to focus and dedicated to getting better year-round is a challenging thing," he said. "But down the road, if you want consistency you have to have that strength."

It's early days still, but so far, Glencoe has picked up where they left off last season, starting the year 6-1. Their only loss came Tuesday, March 20, in an 11-6 loss to Lakeridge, and Tolzman seemed unfazed by the defeat, noting the face/off differential as a key aspect of the loss to what he described as a "solid" Pacers team.

"Their face/off guy gave us fits and gave them a lot of extra possessions," Tozman said. "And they were riding really tough and doubling and tripling us, and we weren't able to transfer the ball to the weak side and get it out of the defensive end."

So they've moved on. And so is the game of lacrosse, which is still gaining a foothold in Oregon. Tolzman has watched his program grow and improve, and he said he has seen that happening throughout the state.

"The top programs have definitely gotten better," he said. "But there's a big middle sector that's improving as well, and I've seen the coaching get better every year."

And where's his program going?

"We're continuing to build a culture of success and accountability," said Tolzman. "The idea is to keep improving."

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