How the Watterson High School boys lacrosse team fares this season may depend on the play of its midfielders.
The Eagles return three starters at attack in senior captains Reed Abahazie, Matt Foley and Eddie Passen and three defensive starters in senior captain and starting goalkeeper Jordan Lucki and senior defenders Matt Stafford and Adam Thomas.
However, Watterson lost all five of its starting midfielders from a year ago to graduation, including a three-year starter in Anthony Melaragno and a pair of two-year starters in Michael O'Connell and Matt Rossi.
The Eagles, who open Saturday, April 6, at Gahanna, finished 11-5 last season.
"We know we can score and defend because we have proven starters at those positions, so the key is to develop our midfield to where it was last year, because you need to be able to transition the ball through the middle of the field to be successful," second-year coach Tom Foley said. "We're strong at attack, but you're not going to score many goals unless your midfielders can move the ball up the field to your offensive players."
Last season, Abahazie (32 goals, 9 assists), Foley (29 goals, 43 assists), Passen (52 goals, 13 assists) and Lucki (155 saves) were named second-team all-region.
O'Connell (89 groundballs, 14 takeaway checks) also made second-team all-region and Melaragno and Rossi were honorable mention.
Starting in the midfield are senior Wyatt Applegate and juniors Eli Kirk, Patrick Pirrman and Evan Woosley and freshman Nick Melaragno (long-stick).
Sophomore Derek Petrucci is a first-year starter on defense.
Rounding out the roster are seniors George Cleary (defender), Brad D'Sa (attacker), Dan O'Brien (midfielder), Tim Smyke (midfielder) and Grant Stover (defender), juniors Kevin Becker (midfielder), Reel Chaudhri (midfielder), Alec Greene (defender), Brendan Ryan (attacker), Austin Schlosser (goalie), Braydon Stellar (midfielder), Lucas Tortora (midfielder), Hayden Wehrly (midfielder) and Cullen Willett (defender) and sophomores Teddy Hoying (midfielder), Josh Rhodes (goalie), Brian Sapp (attacker) and Hunter Spence (attacker).
"It's exciting to know that we have so much talent and depth coming back," coach Foley said. "This is a very intelligent and unselfish team."
Last season, Watterson went 3-3 in games in which it scored nine or fewer goals and 8-2 when scoring 10 or more. The Eagles opened the Division II Central Region tournament with a 14-5 win over Wellington before losing to New Albany 8-4 in the second round.
"We should have a strong season and we could go further in the tournament if we stay focused and play to the best of our abilities," coach Foley said.
Baseball team aiming for CCL, district titles
The baseball team has returned four starters from last season, when it finished 19-9 overall, placed second in the CCL and reached a Division II district semifinal.
"I feel good about our depth and experience," said 19th-year coach Scott Manahan, who entered the season with a career record of 506-201. "This spring, we've spent a lot less time going over stuff that we had to go over the previous couple of years because these kids don't know any different now.
"One of our strengths is going to be our pitching. We've got eight guys who can throw, which can be useful when we get into stretches where we play several games in one week."
Watterson, which opened April 2 against Teays Valley, is looking for its first CCL and district titles since 2007.
The returning starters are seniors Greg Jacknewitz (1B/P), Gabe Martin (RF) and Andrew Ohl (CF/P) and junior Mitch Stotler (SS).
Last year, Martin batted .427 with 25 RBI and 19 runs and was honorable mention all-district and first-team all-league, and Jacknewitz went 6-3 with a 2.65 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 42 2/3 innings.
Other starters are juniors Joe DiOrio (C), Dan Brinkman (2B) and Sam Severance (LF).
Senior Nathan Giangardella is expected to be the team's No. 2 pitcher behind Jacknewitz and will split time at third base with sophomore Jacob Bolton.
Juniors Scott Carter and Patrick Roark are expected to see time in the outfield, and junior Bobby Truelove will start at first base when Jacknewitz pitches. Senior Scott Pritchard and sophomore Sam Rice are expected to see action at catcher and in the infield, and Bolton, Ohl, Rice, Stotler and seniors Kevin Davis and Price Royer should see time on the mound.
Last season, Watterson went 6-2 in the CCL to finish behind DeSales (7-1) and ahead of St. Charles (5-3), Ready (2-6) and Hartley (0-8). DeSales has won back-to-back Division II state titles.
Seeded eighth in the district tournament, the Eagles defeated Brookhaven 12-0 in five innings in the first round and fifth-seeded London 11-2 in the second round before losing to fourth-seeded Granville 10-0 in five innings.
"We want to make some more noise in the CCL and district tournament this year," Manahan said. "DeSales, St. Charles and Hartley are always a good challenge in our league, but we think we can contend with the team we have this season."
Watterson's league opener is April 17 at Ready.