It's not often that a videotaped pregame pep talk delivered by a JV football coach resonates with a varsity field hockey team from a different state years after it was first delivered.
But, through the power of the Internet, John Flowers' now-famous "I am a Champion" speech to his Leland High School (San Jose, Calif.,) gridiron squad has motivated the Shaker Heights field hockey squad.
Early on in the 2013 season, the Raiders adopted "I am a Champion" as their mantra and rallying cry.
Now, Shaker Heights is just three wins away from being crowned an Ohio High School Athletic Association state champion.
The Raiders are set to play Hathaway Brown in a district tournament final on Saturday night at Hawken School for the right to advance to the OHSAA state tournament.
Shaker Heights' 1-0 win against HB on Oct. 10 is arguably the team's biggest victory to date.
"We think it (had) been 10 years since we beat them," fifth-year head coach Hilary Anderson said of the win. "We went undefeated in our conference this year, and I don't know if that has ever been done."
The Raiders are currently 16-1 and were awarded the top seed in its district tournament for the first time in 14 seasons.
Anderson said the team's offensive play style relies on movement.
"Assistant coach Jennifer Clarke and I stress a lot of off-ball movement, so that we can continually try to pass the ball rather than have someone carry the ball for long distances," Anderson said. "We have different levels of ability, so we try to find each player's strengths and use them as a team."
Prior to the team's district semifinal win against Toledo Maumee Valley Country Day, junior Kasidy Anderson had tallied 29 goals and 9 assists in 11 games and junior Olivia Hamilton had totaled nine goals and four assists in 16 contests.
Anderson recently answered questions about her team and its season for WKYC's USATodayhss.com's Web site.
WKYC's USAtodayhss.com/Cleveland: What are three adjectives that describe your team and/or its play this season?
Shaker Heights field hockey coach Hilary Anderson: Tenacious, hardworking and fun.
WKYC: What has been your team's greatest strength this season?
Anderson: Working together and (the players') willingness to learn every day. We have a good balance of upper and lower classmen who try to challenge each other.
WKYC: What has been your team's biggest weakness this season?
Anderson: The girls get caught thinking too much instead of just doing.
WKYC: What has been the high point of your team's season thus far?
Anderson: Going undefeated in our conference, beating Hathaway Brown and being seeded No. 1 for the district playoffs.
WKYC: What was the low point of your team's season?
Anderson: We really haven't had a low time. We have one loss against Worthington. The girls played well, but didn't execute when they had opportunities.
WKYC: Who are your team's leaders? What do they bring to the team?
Anderson: Mia Wang is a senior and one of our captains. She never gives up and always tries her hardest. Her positive attitude is infectious and her ability to control the defense is great. Kasidy Anderson challenges each player every day with her amazing stick work and shots. Hannah Harris is our other captain. Even though she doesn't play fulltime, she is always working hard and being supportive of her teammates.
WKYC: Who has been your team's unsung hero this season? Why?
Anderson: Meagan Mitchell. She is a freshman who plays an integral position at midfield. Her ability to control play and never get pushed around is amazing. Her consistency is so important to our team.
WKYC: What must happen for your team to be able to continue its tournament run?
Anderson: The drive and desire to keep moving and executing will get us to Columbus. We must capitalize on opponents' mistakes.
WKYC: When the season is long over, what will you remember most about this year's squad?
Anderson: They are a really nice group of girls with such high standards on and off the field.
For more Northeast Ohio high school sports news, scores, photos and videos, visit USATodayhss.com/Cleveland.