Patti Passen was a strong supporter of the Watterson High School boys lacrosse team the past eight years.
She often was seen standing along the sideline taking pictures of players and cheering on the Eagles.
Passen had two sons -- 2013 graduate Eddie Passen and 2008 graduate John Passen -- who played prominent roles for the Eagles, and her nephews, Joe and Vinnie Pardi, were assistant coaches last season.
Passen passed away at age 51 on Feb. 11 after battling a blood disorder, and coach Tom Foley said the Eagles will honor her memory this season by wearing stickers on the back of their helmets that read 'Play for Patti' and by adopting those three words as their team motto.
Watterson, which finished 11-5 last year, was scheduled to open March 29 against Toledo St. Francis.
"Patti was one of the biggest supporters our team has ever had and not having her around has been difficult because sometimes when I look to the sidelines, I still expect to see her there," Foley said. "'Play for Patti' has become the theme of our season, and we say that every time we break before we go into games because she inspires us and we want to do our best to honor of her and her family."
Four starters have returned in senior midfielders Pat Pirrmann and Evan Woosley, junior defender Derek Petrucci and sophomore defender Nick Melaragno.
Last season, Woosley scored 11 goals and won 65 percent of his face-offs and was named first-team all-region and honorable mention all-state. Pirrmann (15 goals, 13 assists) and Melaragno were second-team all-region.
Junior attacker Hunter Spencer (8 goals, 9 assists) and senior midfielder Braydon Stellar (6 goals) also saw significant playing time last year.
Watterson lost seven starters from a year ago to graduation in attackers Reed Abahazie and Matt Foley, goalkeeper Jordan Lucki, midfielders Wyatt Applegate and Eddie Passen and defenders Matt Stafford and Adam Thomas.
Foley (26 goals, 35 assists), Passen (48 goals, 15 assists) and Lucki (165 saves) were named first-team all-region and second-team all-state. Thomas was first-team all-region and honorable mention all-state and Abahazie (29 goals, 7 assists) and Stafford were honorable mention all-region. Applegate had 11 goals a year ago.
Senior Austin Schlosser and junior Josh Rhodes are competing for the starting job in goal, and seniors Lucas Tortora and Cullen Willett and freshman Nicolas Giesler are vying to be a starting defender alongside Melaragno and Petrucci.
Giesler and freshman John Blevins are competing to be the starting long-stick midfielder, and junior Tommy Hatem and freshmen Andrew McQuade, A.J. Rigsby and George Sauter are vying for starting roles as attackers.
Foley also expects seniors Eli Kirk and Henry McCann, juniors Tommy Hatem, Teddy Hoying, Brian Sapp and Michael Woosley and freshmen Sam Alves, Adam Kasun and Riley Taylor to contribute as midfielders.
"Last year's team was very talented and experienced," Foley said. "This year's team is athletic and talented as well, but 26 of our 52 guys are freshmen, so we're very young. Our freshmen had a lot of success playing for our feeder program, the Columbus Saints, the past few seasons. They just need to adjust to the speed and physicality of the varsity high school game.
"This team can be special once we get through our growing pains."
Girls lacrosse team splits first two games
The girls lacrosse team struggled to a 4-10-1 overall record last season as eight starters missed multiple games because of injury.
The injuries, however, gave younger players an opportunity to get more playing time, and the experience they gained should make the Eagles stronger this season.
"Because we lost eight of our 12 starters last season, we were able to play a lot of girls who wouldn't have gotten much playing time last year," coach Jack Conte said. "We actually have some depth at all positions this year. We also have over 24 freshman that came to play this year, our largest freshman group ever."
Watterson opened March 21 with an 18-4 victory over Hilliard Darby before losing to DeSales 22-14 in its Central Independent League opener March 28.
The Eagles have 13 returnees in seniors Mackenzie James (attacker), Grace Traini (midfielder), Rachel Limes (defender) and Marissa Melaragno (defender) and juniors Amy Buening (defender), Jennifer Buening (attacker), Taylor Brown (midfielder), Gina DePalma (attacker), Angela Elmo (defender), Elizabeth Frecker (midfielder), Julia Kuhn (attacker), Margret McGowan (defender) and Ellie Wood (midfielder).
James, Melaragno, Traini and Wood are team captains.
Rounding out the roster are juniors Elise Guveiyian (midfielder), Andi Hogsett (attacker), Julia Kuhn (attacker), sophomores Elise Blevins (attacker), Hanna Dondero (midfielder) and Ashley Smith (goalie) and freshmen Natalia Francescon (midfielder), Anna Hartman (midfielder), Kelsey Hatem (defender), Alyssa King (midfielder), Anne Reed (defender), Torie Sullivan (attacker) and Georgia Wood (defender).
"There are some excellent freshman players who will contribute right off the bat," Conte said. "Torie Sullivan, Anne Reed and Georgia Wood all started or played significant time in our season opener. Both Jen and Amy Buening are back after season-ending knee injuries in 2013 and are at 100 percent. We have a junior transfer (from Olentangy), Andi Hogsett, who is excelling at attack, and great leadership from Ellie Wood, Mackenzie James and Grace Traini."
Conte expects his team to be much more competitive this season after finishing sixth (2-4-1) in the Central Independent League behind Columbus Academy (7-0) and losing to Pickerington North 16-8 in the first round of the Division I South/Central Region tournament last year.
"All the kids came back in great shape and ready to play," he said. "We should be able to contend not only for our league title, but at the state level as well. These kids have that type of skill and desire."