Brittany Read remembers Lauren Regan as the coach who turned her into a goalie in seventh grade.
"She saw something in me, and if it wasn't for her I don't know if I would have ever done it," said Read, a junior who is set to play goalie in college for the University of Louisville.
Many Eastern girls' lacrosse players can tell similar stories about Regan, who coached most of team's juniors and seniors in youth lacrosse before coaching them in high school.
Stories like Read's were the driving force behind the team's trip to Regan's home before this season.
"We all just think she's a great coach. We have a connection with her," Read said. "So we brought her a list of top 10 reasons why she should come back."
Personal reasons had kept Regan from coaching Eastern for the previous two years. But the top 10 list had a them that boiled down to: "We want to finish what we started."
So Regan came back. And with the sectional playoffs about to start this week, the Vikings appear ready to fulfill the wish they made before the season.
"I came back because of these kids, because of how much I love this group," Regan said. "And I want to do everything I can to help them achieve the success that they've been working so hard for, the success that they're capable of."
The Vikings' chemistry on the field and with their coach has been clear. They have rolled over opponents all season - winning eight games by at least 10 goals - and they are fresh off their biggest victory of the season, an 11-10 upset of perennial state power Shawnee on May 9.
The win set the stage for what should be the most competitive sectional bracket in New Jersey.
Shawnee moved up to Group 4 this season after years in Group 3. The Renegades (13-2) are the No. 1 seed in Group 4. Eastern (15-1) is the No. 2 seed.
Both would have to withstand three strong matchups before reaching the finals. It's a prospect that Eastern can't help but think about.
"If we're fortunate enough to be there in the finals and Shawnee is there, it's nice to have the confidence to know that, yes, we can beat them," said Regan, whose Vikings also lost to Shawnee, 17-8, on April 17. "But we know that by beating them, we kind of poked the hornets' nest. We're going to have to play our best game."
Boys' brackets. There is a distinct non-South Jersey flavor to the first-ever South Jersey championships in boys' lacrosse.
Before this season, there were only public and non-public state tournaments. Now, there are north and south tournaments in Groups 1-4. The old format remains for Non-Public A and Non-Public B.
On the surface, breaking up the tournaments should mean more chances for South Jersey teams to win titles. North Jersey is one of the country's hotbeds for boys' lacrosse, and, traditionally, underdeveloped South Jersey programs were swallowed up early in state tournaments.
But a closer look indicates that, until Central Jersey tournaments are added, paths to championships aren't likely to get any easier for South Jersey teams.
Seneca, the No. 3 team in the Inquirer's South Jersey Top 10, is the No. 2 seed in the South Jersey Group 2 tournament.
The Golden Eagles (17-1) are in the midst of the most successful season in their history. But to win a South Jersey title, they will likely have to beat No. 1 Somerville (14-1), a school just west of Staten Island, ranked No. 8 in the state by laxpower.com.
The South Jersey Group 4 bracket features three teams in the Inquirer Top 10: No. 5 Cherokee (10-4), No. 6 Washington Township (9-7) and No. 7 Lenape (10-7). The favorite, though, is No. 1 Southern (14-1), a Central Jersey Shore power. Jackson (12-2), another Central Jersey team, is the No. 2 seed.
Central Jersey teams comprise the first three seeds in South Jersey Group 1. West Deptford (14-4), ranked No. 8 in South Jersey by the Inquirer, is the No. 4 seed in South Jersey Group 1.
Moorestown (14-1), the Inquirer's No. 1-ranked team, is the favorite in South Jersey Group 3. But the Quakers face stiff South Jersey competition in a tournament that includes No. 4 Shawnee, No. 8 Clearview, and No. 10 Kingsway.
"Nobody has an easy road," said Kingsway coach Sean Dunn. "But it's the postseason, everybody has a chance - that's all you can ask for."