Five months ago, they were a team nobody wanted to coach and few wanted to play for. Now, the Ladner Pioneers are poised to win the Western Senior Lacrosse Association regular season championship.
The Pioneers are just two wins away from pulling off the feat after beginning the 2011 campaign with far more question marks than answers.
Ladner stumbled out of the gate with two straight losses but have reeled of nine consecutive wins to take over top spot in the league, including a critical three-game stretch that concluded with a 10-8 victory last Thursday over the Royal City Capitals. The news got even better when an earlier defeat to the Tri-City Bandits was reversed for its rival using an ineligible player. The Pioneers now just need wins at Nanaimo on Saturday and a week Thursday against North Shore to hold off the Valley Rebels for first place.
"Nobody saw this coming from a bunch a misfits," laughed head coach Bob Taylor. "These guys have come together as a team and since day one we have tried to keep everything positive."
Taylor took on the coaching duties just weeks before training camp as a favor to team governor and longtime friend John Burr. He soon discovered he had a major rebuilding job on his hands with the majority of players not wanting to return or even demanding a trade.
What had the ingredients of being a long season for league's most dominant franchise, instead went the other direction with some promising young players signed to compliment the remaining veterans. Taylor was happy enough with the chemistry to do little in the way prior to last week's league roster freeze. Only former Pioneer Brandon McKinnon was brought back after he was released by the WLA's Burnaby Lakers.
"The only way this was going to work was if the veterans bought into the idea that there were going to be rookies coming in and being a big part of the team and that's exactly what has happened," said Taylor.
"The really encouraging thing is over half this line-up is first-year players. This is a good team now and is only going to be better next year."
After huge wins over Tri-City and the Valley Rebels, the Pioneers completed the trifecta by getting past Royal City, avenging a season-opening 18-8 loss.
Cam Taylor broke an 8-8 tie with a pair of third period goals. Travis St. Germain and Mike King also scored twice. David Yee and Nathan Clare rounded out the scoring.
Quinn Waddington had four assists, while Justin Dowd made 28 saves.
"Right now everyone is feeling really good," added Taylor. "It's not about one or two players or even my coaching. It's about all of us wanting the same thing."