Bexley High School boys lacrosse coach Rich Russo finds himself in a familiar position after losing seven starters from last year's team to graduation.
"I was in this position two years ago," he said. "We were young then and we're young now. I think our defense is the most athletic and talented it's ever been. ... I need somebody to step up scoring-wise to see how we do there. I'm not sure where that's coming from because they're all so young, but defensively we're as good as we've been."
This is Russo's fourth season, and one of the reasons he believes his young players are so talented is tied to the fact he helped jumpstart a youth program in Bexley when he arrived at the school.
The Lions, who opened April 3 with a 9-5 loss to St. Charles and lost to New Albany 15-8 on April 5, are anchored by a three-year starting goalkeeper in senior Michael Habash.
Sophomores Christian Adkin, Sebastian Leck and Anders Pedon are starters on defense.
Senior Will Murray is a three-year starter at long-stick midfielder.
Playing in the midfield are senior Ethan Knisley and juniors Josh Adkin and Colt Keny.
Key attackers are expected to include junior Sam Erlich, sophomore Taylor Farthing and freshman Jacob Mittman.
Another player expected to contribute on offense is sophomore Jack Haught.
Among the starters who must be replaced are two 2012 graduates who went on to play at the collegiate level in Tyler Bringman at Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, Va., and A.J. Gogan at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla.
Bringman was second-team all-region last season and Gogan was first-team all-region along with another 2012 graduate, Nick Maley, who led the team with 44 goals and 15 assists in the regular season.
Bexley finished 7-10 last season but advanced further than it had before in the Division II Central Region tournament, losing its third game to eventual state champion DeSales 19-5. The Lions defeated Canton Central Catholic 17-5 in a play-in game and Wooster 13-7 in a first-round game.
"Our goal never changes," Russo said. "Our goal every year is to win the state title."
Girls lacrosse team looking for defense
After guiding the girls lacrosse team to a 14-4 overall record last spring, coach Gillian Thomson saw seven players graduate.
"We graduated all of our starting low defenders, including goalie, and a key midfielder," Thomson said. "Thankfully, we have a number of strong players who know our defensive system well and are ready to fill in those spots.
"I'm confident that we'll have good scoring production from a wide range of players. We have a lot of speed, and our skill level continues to improve from one year to the next."
Among the 2012 graduates were six starters in Brynna Davis (defender), Sarah Dressel (midfielder), Emily Elisar (defender), Kate Gatterdam (midfielder), Maddy Kelly (goalkeeper) and Elisa Pruitt (defender). Also, Colleen Bond missed her senior season a year ago with an injury.
Returning seniors include Jane Addison (attacker), Carlin Coffey (defender, captain), Libby Davis (midfielder, captain), Abby Robins (attacker) and Ellie Williams (midfielder, captain).
Others back include juniors Sam Bolon (midfielder), Emma Crane (defender), Sarah Dawley (midfielder) and Megan Elisar (attacker) and sophomores Leslie Janco (attacker) and Megan Myers (midfielder).
Gatterdam led the team in goals (55) and assists (36) last season, but the next three top scorers have returned in Dawley (39 goals), Williams (36) and Davis (33).
Dawley scored four goals and Janco and Williams both had two in a 10-9 win over Hilliard Davidson in the Lions' opener April 4.
Last season, Bexley lost to New Albany 18-3 in a Division II South/Central Region semifinal after beating Columbus School for Girls 13-12 in its postseason opener.
The Lions finished second (5-2) in the Central Independent League behind Columbus Academy (7-0) and ahead of Hartley (4-2-1), CSG (4-3), Watterson (3-3-1), DeSales (2-5), Wellington (1-6) and Granville (1-6).
"There is a lot of good competition in central Ohio and that continues to improve the level of play year after year," Thomson said. "For us, there are no easy games in the CIL, and it's exciting as there's a greater level of parity in the league."
Boys tennis team must replace top players
The three boys tennis players who competed in the Division II state tournament last season for Bexley have graduated. That left the Lions with some holes to fill entering their opener April 9 against Grandview.
Matt Wareti finished fourth at state a year ago, while the doubles team of Max Schottenstein and David Seckel lost in the first round.
"We're losing our top three players," coach G.J. Seckel said. "They all made it to states, so it will be a transitional year for us, but we have a lot of young guys and six seniors coming back."
The six senior returnees are Clay Cardenas (doubles), Kyle Caruthers (singles or doubles), Jack Fowler (doubles), Will Gingery (doubles), Ethan Goodstein (singles or doubles) and Nathan Katz (singles).
Senior Tyler Seckel (doubles) also is expected to contribute.
Also back is junior Logan Wilhelm (doubles), and joining the team after moving from France is junior Max Kelly (singles).
Coach Seckel also expects freshmen Taylor Rogers and Shia Saar to make an impact.
"While we won't be quite as strong, we'll have good depth, as usual," he said.
The Lions finished fourth in the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division II state team tournament last year, losing to eventual champion Hunting Valley University School 3-0 in a semifinal and Cincinnati Country Day 3-1 in the third-place match.
Bexley finished 17-4 overall and was first in the MSL-Cardinal/Ohio Division regular-season standings at 6-0. But the Lions lost to Columbus Academy (36 points, 5-1) on four of five courts in the league tournament and settled for second (35) ahead of Granville (23, 4-2), Fisher Catholic (19, 3-3), Grandview (17, 2-4), Whitehall (4, 1-5) and West Jefferson (2, 0-6).
"We want to do as well as we can in the league," coach Seckel said. "We've been ahead of Academy the past two years, but this year they have a little more depth and strength than we have.
"Any time you have senior experience, you hope that it will carry over. These kids seem to be focused and I think they can be pretty successful again."