It's been a rare occurrence, and a difficult task, over the years to find a better girls soccer coach than Maple Grove's Mike Burr.
Just consider the facts:
In the last four seasons, Burr's Lady Red Dragons have won their league - be it Division 2 or 3, it's no matter really - three times.
MAPLE GROVE COACH MIKE BURR
Since 2005, Burr, who has coached the varsity squad in each of the previous eight seasons, has led Maple Grove to six league titles overall, including one stretch in which the team captured three straight Class D sectional crowns.
Finally, and perhaps most impressively, Burr has guided the Lady Red Dragons to undefeated league seasons (the latest was in Division 2 after consecutive Division 3 titles) in each of the past three years.
Yes, that's right, Maple Grove hasn't lost a league contest since 2009.
That is why Burr is The Post-Journal girls soccer coach of the yeat for the third time.
It's hard enough to win the league once - just ask coaches around the area - but to do it twice? Or three times? That's something undeniably special.
"There's no question (how difficult it is)," Burr said of winning multiple titles in a row. "The team starts getting a target on its back. You just have to respond and know that when you're in first, everybody wants a piece of you."
As it's often said, the best teams get everyone's best effort.
"Going into this season we knew that our league was incredibly strong (five of the 10 squads in all of the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association that finished above .500 were in Division 2)," he continued. "To be able to go undefeated in that league, it wasn't what I expected.
"I couldn't have been prouder of the girls."
Led by a defense that allowed just seven goals all season and by offensive standouts like Alex Novotny, who tallied 15 goals and nine assists for a team-high 39 points, Emma Franczak, who netted 10 goals to go along with 13 assists for 33 points, and Paige Sirwatka, who had 10 goals and seven assists for 27 points, Maple Grove won it's first 18 games to start the season, averaging over three scores per contest.
And to think, Burr, due to the players he had available on the team, made an adjustment at the start of the season that he believed would result in fewer goals.
"This year we toyed around with quite a few different things," Burr said, "but the biggest was that because we had different makeup (this season compared to last) we had to play to our strengths. We went with two forwards instead of the usual three to help us keep possession better. I was kind of nervous that we wouldn't be able to score, but it turned out that (the change) was a big key for us."
The girls, Burr adds, took the adjustments in stride.
"This group of girls, honestly, was very low maintenance," he said with a laugh. "Everyone thinks that there can be drama, but these girls were absolutely great. All genuinely like each other, there was great team unity, they do things together outside of school and it made my job just so much easier. They are a very wonderful, very coachable group."
Among the highlights of the season was a slim, 1-0 victory over eventual second-place finisher Portville (they tied with Frewsburg) in their first true test of the season in early September; a come-from-behind, 3-2 victory over Salamanca in which Sirwatka scored two goals, including one that broke a 2-2 tie in the final 21 seconds of play; and a pair of hard-fought victories over rival, and then-defending Division 2 champion, Frewsburg.
It was only when they went up against undefeated Division 1 champion Allegany-Limestone in the Class C semifinal that the Lady Red Dragons finally suffered their first defeat.
"Without question it's always tough to lose, especially when the first one is in the playoffs," Burr said, "but I look at that game and know that the girls left their hearts on the field and gave everything they had. We just lost to another quality team."
With Burr at the helm, however, and a core group of Lady Red Dragons returning next season, it's a safe bet that Maple Grove will be right back in the mix once again in the coming years.
History proves it.