The Delaware Hayes High School boys lacrosse team will have to fill some major holes next season if it is to win a third consecutive state club championship.
The Pacers must replace 17 seniors who led them to a dominating postseason run that culminated with a 17-7 win over Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas in the state final June 8 at Upper Arlington.
"Obviously, we had a lot of talent in our senior class, and we'll need a lot of people to step in and play big roles," said coach Sean Ryan, whose squad finished 18-3 overall. "But I think we have those types of kids in the program. It will be extremely difficult to replace players such as Griffin Kinney and Jordan Carlson."
Kinney, a 6-foot-8 attacker who will play basketball at Fork Union (Va.) Military School, may prove to be the most difficult to replace. He scored seven goals in the final and was named the game's Offensive MVP. He also was the Central Regional and state Attacker of the Year as he led the team in goals (45) and points (64).
Kinney, senior defenders Jordan Carlson and Andrew Ward and senior goalkeeper Michael Duffy were first-team all-state, as was junior long-stick midfielder Bryan Neitzelt. Senior attacker Dominic Sanfillipo was on the second team.
Carlson was named the Defensive MVP in the final, and Duffy made eight saves. Senior attacker Kyle Gabbert had four assists.
Gabbert led the team in assists (28) and was the third-leading scorer (55 points). Sanfillipo recorded 30 goals and 46 points. Duffy made 215 saves and allowed 122 goals.
The top-seeded Pacers outscored their four tournament opponents by an average of 16-4.8. For the season, they scored 258 goals and allowed 129.
Delaware was 36-5 over the last two seasons, with three of the losses coming in overtime.
"Since winning (the state championship) last year, this has been our goal," Kinney said.
"We worked hard to get where we're at. This isn't from luck. Winning this and the fact that our program keeps winning, it comes from working hard, sharing the ball and staying unselfish."
The Pacers, who played their first three tournament games at home, had a first-round bye before defeating (Dayton) Eagles Lacrosse Club 14-3 on May 25, Ottawa Hills 17-2 in a state quarterfinal June 1 and Springboro 16-7 in a semifinal June 5.
The semifinal was a rematch of last season's final in which the Pacers won 11-10 in overtime.
Other senior starters were midfielders Phoenix Neitzelt and Jordan Zinader. Key contributors from the senior class were midfielder Lane Kleilein, attackers Paul Golden and Jesse Hauger, long-stick midfielder Anthony Sanfillipo and defender Jonathan Lindeboom. Phoenix Neitzelt had 159 ground balls.
Delaware's losses were against Mount Lebanon (Pa.) 12-6 in the opener March 27, Westerville Central 10-9 on April 12 and Pickerington Central 11-10 on April 19. The Pacers won their final 13 games.
Pickerington Central won the OCC-Central Division at 6-0, with Delaware tying Pickerington North for second at 4-2, followed by Westerville Central (3-3), Westerville North (3-3), Big Walnut (1-5) and Westerville South (0-6).
"These seniors were the pioneers of the program," Ryan said.
"They started the program in the sixth grade, and they're the first class to go all the way through. They established the lacrosse community to the point we have between 150 and 200 players in the program now. They set the bar really high and gave us a tradition to build upon."
Carlson will play for Ohio Wesleyan, Dominic Sanfillipo will play for Otterbein and Duffy will play for Kenyon. Phoenix Neitzelt will play soccer at Ohio Wesleyan.
Delaware expects to return midfielders in juniors MacGregor Roberts, Ridge Snyder, Clay Sparks and Tyler Zinader and sophomore Joseph Sanfillipo, junior long-stick midfielder/defender James Wegmiller and sophomore attacker Judson Huston.
Roberts and Huston both scored three goals in the final, and Joseph Sanfillipo had two goals and an assist. Huston was second on the team in goals (40) and points (57). Roberts (27 goals, 35 points) was fifth in scoring, followed by Joseph Sanfillipo (31).
Wegmiller and Joseph Sanfillipo both were second-team all-region, joining first-teamers Carlson, Duffy, Kinney, Ward, Dominic Sanfillipo and Bryan Neitzelt.
"Huston started the season on j.v. and ended up being our second-leading scorer," Ryan said. "That goes to show you how much you can improve in a short amount of time. That should give all the underclassmen reason to work hard. I know they will because they want to carry the torch and not be the ones to let the program slip."