After finishing 10-7-1 overall last fall but losing eight players to graduation, Bexley High School field hockey coach Kara Hardesty remained positive about what the Lions could accomplish this season.
They have yet to disappoint, starting 4-1-1 overall and 4-1 in the Central Ohio Field Hockey League.
The strength in the team coming back was the return of its top goal scorers, and several players have scored so far.
Kayley Barno leads the team with four goals, three of which came in an 8-0 league win over Dublin Scioto on Sept. 11.
Anrea Dressel scored all three of her goals in a 4-0 win over Dublin Jerome on Sept. 10 and also has three assists.
Ellie Williams has three goals and three assists and scored the winner on a penalty shot in overtime against Granville on Aug. 29. The 3-2 league victory gave Hardesty her 100th career win.
Julia Applefield (2 goals, 1 assist), Kara Friedman (1 goal, 2 assists), Courtney Peterson (3 goals, 4 assists) and Grace Rosenthal (2 goals) also have contributed.
Goalkeeper Abby Barno has 25 saves, including nine in a 3-1 league loss to Columbus Academy on Sept. 4.
According to Hardesty, one indication this could be a good season for the Lions came in that loss to Academy.
"We played them the toughest we've ever played them," she said. "We lost, but I would take that performance over some of the others against them. We have tied them twice since I've been here, but this was the first time we looked like we belonged on the field with them in a long time."
Despite having a small team -- the Lions have 26 players in the program -- Bexley is finding success.
"We've had a couple games where we've been short-handed," Hardesty said. "It's been that much more important to be in shape and in good condition."
While offense was a known strength entering the season, the defense was an unknown.
"That was the question mark because we lost our entire starting defense," Hardesty said. "I've been really pleased with people who have been willing to try positions they didn't necessarily play before."
Hardesty pointed to senior Alexis Levy, who moved to the back from offense, as someone who has led by example.
Also in new positions are Ashley Barno and Abby Barno, on defense and in goal, respectively.
"Ashley is a freshman and we knew right away she'd be a varsity starter for us on defense," Hardesty said. "That's not necessarily her most comfortable position. Abby has been phenomenal (in goal). She's been learning really quickly and she's done well, especially in the Academy game."
Against Academy, Hardesty was most proud of the way her team responded after it fell behind 1-0.
"In the past, if they scored first, we've just fallen apart," she said. "This particular game we kept playing hard. If you look in terms of time of possession, in the past they'd have it most of the game. This year we had it as much as they did."
Football team looks for first league win
The football team plays Friday, Sept. 21, at Lakewood looking for its first MSL-Ohio win.
Bexley dropped to 1-3 overall with a 41-0 loss to Granville on Sept. 14 in the league opener.
"We have to shore things up offensively," coach John Smith said. "We were getting better week to week, and we just had a really big setback. Credit Granville and their kids."
The Lancers are 1-3 overall and 0-1 in the league following a 42-2 loss to Academy on Sept. 14.
Lakewood has been outscored 157-9 in its losses.
The Lancers switched from a more traditional offense to the veer this season to try to keep two-way players fresh.
"The fortunate thing is we run a similar offense and we've faced similar offenses in Berne Union (30-0 win Aug. 31) and a shotgun veer in our third scrimmage," Smith said. "We just have to eliminate mistakes defensively and offensively we have to take care of the ball."
Alex Napier (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) is Lakewood's quarterback, while Junior King (5-5, 170) has scored a rushing touchdown from his wingback position.
Jack Rusher has a touchdown as a running back and Napier has scored Lakewood's other two rushing touchdowns.
King also caught a scoring pass from Napier in the Lancers' 25-6 win over Northridge on Aug. 31.
As for players on his squad who have made an impact, Smith pointed to the play of offensive guard Jackson Sher and Mike Herwald on the defensive line.
Moving past back-to-back losses will be a key this week, according to Smith.
"(On Sept. 7 in a 45-21 loss to Hamilton Township) it was big, physical, strong and fast kids and (last) week (against Granville) they weren't as big, but they were very fast and athletic," he said.
"We've played two really good football teams back-to-back here and I think we're ready to move on to our next challenge, put those two games behind us and keep going into week two of our league."