The Columbus School for Girls lacrosse team spent five days practicing and scrimmaging in warm weather in Orlando, Fla., last week while the majority of central Ohio squads had to deal with chilly and sometimes snowy weather.
Coach Brittney Zerhusen is confident the Unicorns' experience in Florida will help them develop into a better team this season.
"This trip gives us an advantage because we get to practice and play in 75-degree temperatures at the same time that our competition has had to be inside a gym or outdoors in the cold and snow," said Zerhusen, whose squad finished 6-9 overall last year. "Going to Florida gives our girls extra time to develop chemistry and learn to play together. We are getting the opportunity to play teams from different states and learn a lot of new skills through clinics that Disney offers.
"We're having a lot of fun, too, because we got to spend time in Disney World at the end of each day. The girls have been a little more focused and energetic in practice because they know they're going to get to go to the park at the end of the day."
Five starters have returned in senior midfielders Erin Balasky and Sophia Sugar and sophomores Avery Hinson (midfielder), Charlotte Lennox (defender) and Mo Ostrowski (defender).
Completing the lineup are senior defender Caroline Pompili, junior attacker Sam Ziegler and sophomores Molly Bokor (attacker), Gennie Faber (goalkeeper), Olivia Feldman (attacker), Katie Henderson (attacker), Adelaide Standley (attacker) and Kaitlyn Yale (attacker).
Balasky, Pompili and Sugar are captains.
"This team has solid leadership and a lot of chemistry," Zerhusen said.
The Unicorns, who opened April 1 at Pickerington North, are looking to score with more consistency and become more competitive in the Central Independent League.
Last year, CSG went 6-0 when it scored 13 or more goals but 0-9 when scoring 12 or fewer. The Unicorns finished fourth (4-3) in the CIL behind champion Columbus Academy (7-0).
"We've really stepped up our transition game and I think that's going to help our scoring," Zerhusen said.
"Our goals this season are be a top competitive team and to lead the CIL. The CIL is overall a strong league. We always have a hard-fought competitive game against Bexley and Columbus Academy. We are looking forward to playing both of those strong programs."
Track squad vying for CCL title
Track and field coach Elon Simms said his team should be stronger this season with a mix of improved returning performers and talented freshmen leading the way.
Senior Emma Harris, sophomore Eleanor Smith and freshmen Anna Tierney and Grace Tierney are CSG's top distance/middle distance runners, while junior Rebecca O'Donovan and sophomore Isabella Pesavento are its leading sprinters.
Senior Cecilia Pesavento is the top hurdler, while the top field performers are junior Erika Sims (long jump), Smith (high jump) and freshman Saidyah Babatunde (discus/shot put).
In last year's Division II state meet, Smith, O'Donovan, Isabella Pesavento and Harris placed fourth in the 1,600-meter relay (3 minutes, 59.04 seconds).
Harris also finished 11th in the 800 (2:19.56) after placing sixth in the 800 (2:17.38) a year earlier.
"This year, with the addition of the Tierney twins, we should be much stronger in the distance/middle distance areas," said Simms, whose team opens Tuesday, April 8, at Worthington Christian. "Rebecca O'Donovan has worked really hard in the offseason, so she will be a great leader for our sprint crew. Because of this, I expect improvements in those areas as well."
The Unicorns are hungry for their first CCL title after scoring 112 points to finish second in the league meet behind DeSales (114) a year ago.
"You know, last year we lost by two points," Simms said. "All I can say is we're going to go after it."
Simms also is hoping his team will fare better in the Division II postseason meets after finishing third in the district 2 meet, tying for 14th at regional and tying for 39th at state last season.
"The majority of our girls have been training during the offseason," Simms said.
"We are looking to capitalize on this commitment as well as the youthfulness of our team. We only lost two seniors last year, so we look to do better in the areas of sprints as well as distance. With our growth, we should have more depth this year to achieve some of the top spots at our larger meets."