Third-year Bexley High School boys lacrosse coach Rich Russo hopes his team can build off last season.

Third-year Bexley High School boys lacrosse coach Rich Russo hopes his team can build off last season.

The Lions experienced their first winning season last year, finishing 9-6 after losing to New Albany 17-10 in a play-in game of the Division II Central Region tournament. The nine wins also represented the most victories in the program's seven-year history.

"Hopefully, it was a springboard year for us," said Russo, whose team opens Friday, March 23, at Toledo St. Francis. "A lot of our core players were juniors and most of them are coming back this season. Hopefully, we'll get to continue the attitude and the winning and take the next step."

Playing midfield are seniors Tyler Bringman, A.J. Gogan, Robert Gold, Michael Hayes and Jonathan Parker, sophomore Ethan Knisley and freshman Cavanagh Rigby.

Bringman has committed to Wittenberg University and Gogan has committed to Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla.

Playing attacker are seniors Jamie Bolon and Nick Maley, sophomores Cole Keny and Sam Ehrlich and freshman Taylor Farthing.

"Tyler, A.J., Nick and (senior) defender John Philips are bringing an attitude of wanting to win and do things that have never been done here before," Russo said. "Their work ethic has been spectacular. Practices have been crisper and harder and a little more intense."

Junior Michael Habash returns at goalkeeper with sophomore Ryan Reed serving as his backup. Philips, senior Jacob Morgan, junior Will Murray, sophomore Zach Ward and freshman Anders Pedon comprise the defense.

"Our defense is going to be the make-or-break factor for us," Russo said. "We know we can score, but there are going to be games where we know we need the defense to step up and hopefully we can steal a couple."

Girls lacrosse team buoyed by senior leadership

Rarely at full strength last season, the girls lacrosse team finished 8-8-1 overall after losing to Hartley 14-10 in the first round of the Division II South/Central Regional tournament.

Eighth-year coach Gillian Thomson hopes her team's senior leadership will help the Lions improve on last season.

"We have a huge group of seniors who just work together well," said Thomson, whose team opens March 29 at Columbus Academy. "We have a strong senior presence from goalkeeper all the way to the attack."

The Lions return senior Colleen Bond on attack and seniors Kate Gatterdam and Sarah Dressel in the midfield. Gatterdam, who was honorable mention all-region last year, has committed to Queens University in Charlotte, N.C.

Bond is recovering from a leg injury but is expected to return to the lineup soon. Last season Bond (42 goals) and 2011 graduate Gabby Goldach (28 goals) were the team's leading scorers despite missing five and eight games, respectively.

"Missing Gabby and Colleen at different parts of the season caused other people to step up," Thomson said. "We're where we were last year. We're wondering where scoring is going to come from, but we have a lot of nice speed and skill coming through the midfield. We'll adjust."

Senior Maddy Kelly returns at goalkeeper after making second-team all-region last year. Seniors Brynna Davis, Emily Elisar and Elisa Pruitt lead the defense.

"Our defense is going to propel us," Thomson said. "Maddy has been phenomenal in goal the past two years. We have so much confidence in her and the defense in front of her has worked so well together. That's going to be one of our biggest strengths."

Bexley went 2-5 in the Central Independent League to place sixth, behind Academy (7-0), Hartley (5-2), Wellington (5-2), Columbus School for Girls (4-2) and Watterson (3-3) and ahead of Granville (1-6) and DeSales (1-6). The league game between Watterson and CSG was not played.

Last season, Bexley endured lopsided losses to Academy and CSG, falling 15-3 to the Vikings and 14-5 to the Unicorns. The rest of its league losses were by five goals or fewer, as it lost 11-10 to Watterson, 15-12 to Wellington and 16-11 to Hartley.

"There are a couple of teams in our league who are very strong, but there's going to be a bunch of teams in the middle fighting it out for second, third and fourth place," Thomson said. "We have a good shot at some of the teams we were close with last year."