It wasn't long ago that the Shelton girls soccer team lived at the bottom of the conference standings.
Two years ago, it took the Highclimbers 10 games before they won one. They would win only one more time that season.
But now, things are different in Shelton.
Let the following words enter your mind: Shelton is unbeaten through five games.
Five games and no losses.
The Highclimbers (3-0-2 overall, 2-0 in the Class 3A Western Cascade Conference) are one win away from last season's victory total only five games into the season. They'll try to continue their hot start at 7 p.m. today as they host Timberline.
"The kids are starting to believe what we're trying to do," Shelton coach Brett Bartlett said. "They're finally starting to understand. It's the same group that's been together for the past two seasons."
Shelton was in dire need of change and positive reinforcement when Bartlett arrived in 2005. Shelton was coming off a season in which its only ventures out of the loss column were a victory over Bremerton and a tie with Port Angeles.
In the past three games, Shelton has two seven-goal games and has outscored its opponents by a combined 18-3.
Six Highclimbers have scored, too, proving that it's not just one or two players leading the offense.
"We're fortunate that we have a good core group of kids," Bartlett said. "There's a mind shift in Shelton soccer. We want to lead by example."
And it starts in the community.
The past few summers, the high school players have gotten involved in summer camps to help boost and improve soccer in and around Shelton. And because of it, the community has given back by attending home games.
It's the little things the team is doing well that have contributed to its success.
Bartlett has the Highclimbers playing more of a collegiate style of soccer, which has allowed them to create more versatility for more options. Passing the ball, creating space, communicating with each other and believing in each other have made the difference, Bartlett said.
"There wasn't a belief they could win," Bartlett said. "That was a huge issue when we first started. But now, it's 'Why not us?' It can be us, and let's get this thing done."
n New WIAA rule for swimmerS limits club time: The WIAA passed a rule this year that bars high school swimmers from competing with their club teams during the high school season.
Rule 62.4.0 states, "Swimmers must practice their entire practice session with their high school team in order to be eligible to compete for that team."
So, if a swimmer's club practice conflicts with a high school practice, the swimmer must swim for his or her high school team.
So far, coaches like the ruling, including Timberline swim coach Celeste Emmons. The rule affects only one of her swimmers, freshman Alyssa Thrasher, who swims for the Poseidon Aquatic Club. But once the high school season starts, Thrasher does all of her training with the Blazers, Emmons said.
"I don't have a problem with (the rule)," Emmons said. "When they're in their high school season, I think they need to be part of that team."
n Yelm football player OK after shot to trachea: After attempting to make a tackle at the goal line in the Yelm Tornados' 35-16 loss to North Kitsap last week, Zach Basher took a nasty block.
While he was on the ground on his back, an unidentified player stepped on Basher's throat and chest, according to Yelm coach Del Enders.
Basher was taken to a hospital as a precaution.
"There were no injuries other than the swelling, and he received two cracked ribs, making it difficult to breathe," Enders said.
Enders said Basher should return to action this week, when Yelm hosts North Thurston at 7 p.m. Friday.
n STANDOUT Sophomore for Wolves: Despite Black Hills' 0-3 record, there is one bright spot for the Wolves - sophomore running back Cody Peterson leads the team, the Evergreen Conference and the South Sound region in rushing.
In just three games, Peterson has rushed for 583 yards on 96 carries, with four touchdowns.
He's averaging 6.1 yards per carry. He'll try to improve his yardage Friday, when Black Hills hosts Centralia at 7 p.m. at Tumwater District Stadium.
n A look ahead: There's a crosstown rivalry matchup in volleyball at 7 p.m. today as River Ridge plays at Tumwater. The T-Birds ran off 14 straight league wins to capture the Evergreen Conference title last year and the Hawks finished right behind them. Both teams come into tonight's game undefeated. ... In what's being considered the biggest matchup in South Sound football this year, undefeated Tumwater (3-0) travels to play undefeated Chehalis (3-0) at 7 p.m. Friday at Bearcat Stadium. Both teams are ranked in the top 5 in a few statewide polls.
Meg Wochnick covers high school sports for The Olympian. She can be reached at 360-754-5473 or firstname.lastname@example.org.