Columbus School for Girls lacrosse coach Brittney Zerhusen initially was concerned her team, with only 13 players, might get worn down and struggle in close games.
Those fears were quelled after the Unicorns won three of their first four games that were decided by one goal, including wins in their first two overtime contests.
After losing to Thomas Worthington 12-11 on April 5, CSG won three consecutive close Central Independent League contests, beating Hartley 12-11 on April 9, DeSales 13-12 in overtime April 18 and Granville 13-12 in overtime April 25.
After a 1-4 start, the Unicorns won four of five games to improve to 5-5 overall and 4-2 in the Central Independent League before playing Watterson on April 30 in their league finale.
"The girls worked hard to get in great mental and physical shape and they've played really well late in games and in overtime," Zerhusen said. "I think our girls actually play better in pressure situations where the score is tied or we are down by one goal. They keep their composure and find a way to finish games."
Against Hartley, midfielder Erin Balasky scored six goals and midfielder Sophia Sugar scored three, including the winner with 7 seconds left.
Against DeSales, which was 5-0 before playing CSG, attacker Morgan Amigo beat two defenders and scored the winning goal with a left-handed bounce shot.
Against Granville, Balasky scored the winning goal in overtime.
"We're very excited about our overtime wins," Zerhusen said.
"DeSales was undefeated before we played them, so that was a big win. And we beat Granville on our senior night. These games have given us a little bit of a boost going into the end of the season."
Attacker Jenny Henderson, Amigo, Balasky and Sugar have sparked CSG's offense.
After the Unicorns averaged nine goals in their 0-3 start, they averaged 11.6 while going 5-2 in their following seven contests.
"We're doing a lot of little things better like getting groundballs and transitioning up the field, and our scoring has improved," Zerhusen said.
Goalkeeper Erin Smith and defenders Jenna Ellis, Maddie McGregor and Charlotte Lennox have helped shore up the defense.
After the Unicorns gave up an average of 14.2 goals through five games, they gave up an average of 10 in the next five.
"Erin is a great all-around goalie and our defense has been doing an awesome job lately," Zerhusen said.
"We're being aggressive and playing good body defense."
The Unicorns end the regular season by playing host to Olentangy on Monday, May 6, before playing Wednesday, May 8, at Pickerington Central and playing host May 10 to Worthington Kilbourne.
As of April 28, Olentangy was 8-2, Central was 7-3 and Kilbourne was 10-2.
"We're excited because we get to play some good teams like Worthington Kilbourne to end our season," Zerhusen said.
"We've got some momentum now and we'll need to continue to play relentless for 60 minutes to beat these teams."
Smith stepping down as AD, coach
Athletics director and basketball coach Lindsey Smith said she will step down from both positions at the end of the school year to become Wellington's athletics director on July 1.
"I was attracted (to make this move) by Wellington's dedication to their mission of 'inspiring each person to discover and strive to meet his or her unique potential,'" Smith said. "Their dedication to this statement, pursuit of innovation and forward thinking and extremely welcoming community make Wellington a perfect fit for me and my family."
Smith hopes she can help Wellington's teams become even more competitive.
"I look forward to creating an environment where the community feels a great sense of pride in the athletic program," she said.
"This will be accomplished through developing strong student leaders and committed coaches within the program. My hope is that the student-athletes will develop their confidence, become risk takers and embrace challenges. Through development of these intangible qualities, the students will learn to be successful both on the playing field and beyond."
Even though Smith will be leaving CSG after working there only one school year, she said she has enjoyed the experience. In her one season as basketball coach, the Unicorns finished 4-18 overall and 0-8 in the CCL.
"My experiences... at CSG have been very rewarding," she said.
"The relationships I was able to build with the basketball team will last far beyond my time here. I had the opportunity to coach an amazing group of young women and continue to be inspired by their tenacity on a daily basis.
"I am grateful for the time I spent as a Unicorn and all of the wonderful coaches, faculty and staff that help to make this a successful year. I feel that CSG athletics has a lot of momentum right now, and I look forward to seeing the program develop its full potential."