It's a resume most teams would kill for going into the playoffs.
They are the returning district champions, won the conference title and enjoyed near-perfect regular season.
They have skill, speed and are the No. 6-ranked team in the state.
But as Lakeview High School soccer coach Nate Mailach prepares for the first round of the Division II boys soccer tournament, he's making sure his team understands that none of their past accomplishments mean anything more than a top seed.
"Survive and advance," said Mailach of his playoff mentality. "Every game is going to be close, so we have to be able to win the 1-0 and 2-1 games. Every game is a battle, even against the lower-seeded teams. No one is going to quit."
Lakeview finished the season 15-1 is looking to repeat as district champs, but the road back won't be an easy one.
The Bulldogs play the winner of Niles and Champion, which square off Tuesday, on Saturday in Cortland. Lakeview defeated both teams at one point this year and has played each in the past week, but the second matchup with Champion resulted in a 2-1 loss to the archrival Golden Flashes. It marked the first time Lakeview allowed two goals in a game this year (the Bulldogs have outscored their opponents, 107-7).
Lakeview also has a few injuries holding it back, especially one to senior forward Jake Colbrunn, a four-year starter at stopper who's been out since the seventh game of the season with a fractured tibia. Mailach also is concerned with some recent struggles against set plays and an inability to score at opportune times. Still, the Bulldogs have the leading goal scorer in the state (Division II only) in Colton Ainsley and are blessed with talent all over the field, so Mailach is confident another run is in the makings.
"I think there are only six or seven guys on the roster who played last year, so they're young and inexperienced, but with guys we have back were instrumental in last year's success," he said. "Having those players around to speak to the other guys about the intensity of the games and how tough you have to play for 80 minutes and beyond is huge."
The biggest road block for the Bulldogs is undoubtedly Mooney. The second-seeded Cardinals have won the district title 10 of the last 11 years, were state champs in 2002, state runners-up in '04 and '05 and regional finalists in from '02 to '06 and again in 2009. Furthermore, they've only lost three games in the past 12 years to local teams. That said, one of those setbacks came when Lakeview beat them, 3-0, in the district championship game last season.
First-year coach Lou Cali Jr. said his team has been on a mission to return to its winning ways, and the work ethic of the senior class is the main reason he sees it happening.
"It started the day it ended last year," he said. "Our senior class is very tight knit and very good. It's a big class, and they've put in all the work that's necessary, so we'll see where it all falls when the season is over. But I don't think there's anything else they've could've done up to this point."
Mooney (9-5-1) endured a rigorous schedule during the regular season, playing the likes of Upper St. Clair (Pittsburgh), which was ranked 10th in the country when the teams met, Erie Cathedral Prep, a returning final four team in Pennsylvania, as well as Ohio powers Columbus DeSales, Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy, Massillon Jackson, Perrysburg, Bloom Carroll, Marlington and Bay Village. The brutal schedule is something Cali believes will pay dividends in the postseason.
"I don't want us to be in awe of anybody when we get in the tournament," he said. "We've played against several players this year who, in my opinion, will be professional players. We've played against teams who are some of the best in the state and one that was nationally ranked. So, we're not going to see anyone in the playoffs that's better than what we've seen during the year."
Mooney plays the winner of LaBrae and Liberty.
DIVISION III: Another playoff-tested team looking to make a run is Badger, the second seed in the Division III, Kent district.
The Badgers (13-2-1) are fairly new to the Kent district, which is widely considered one of the toughest in all of Division III as several schools have traditionally strong programs. Badger was one of the top seeds last year but fell in the second round to Newberry.
Coach Karl Martin said a more potent attack and a stout and deep defense, his Badgers are expecting a longer stint in the postseason this year.
"We have a lot of balance as far as an attack goes," said Martin, in his 12th season at Badger. "We have strength up the middle. We're strong on the wing, and defensively we have an excellent keeper and a strong central defense. We've got strengths in most of the positions, but especially up the middle, our keeper through our forward."
Senior forward Taylor Matson leads Badger with 21 goals. Martin said Matson was a promising goalkeeper as a freshman and sophomore, but took last year off. The Badgers then developed a new keeper, junior Jared Meikle, so when Matson decided to return this year, he was moved to forward, where he's flourished.
"We already had a keeper in place, so he said, 'Coach, I'll play wherever you want,' so we set him up at forward and he's responded very well," Martin said.
The Badgers open up against the winner of Berkshire and Gilmour Academy. Hawken is the top seed.
DIVISION I: Howland enters the Division I tournament as the No. 10 seed. The Tigers (6-7-2) face a familiar foe in Kenston. Howland beat the Bombers in the first round of last year's tournament, 4-1. Kenston, however, toppled the Tigers in the fist game of the regular season this year, 3-1.
Howland coach George Stevens said it's tough for him to gauge how his team will do because he doesn't know which one will show up.
"We've played very well at times, but we've had lapses where the other team was able to take advantage of us," he said. "If we play 80 minutes, we can play competitively against most of the teams in our district. But if we have a lapse, we don't have great comeback ability."
The Tigers play Hudson in the second round if they advance.