The Delaware Hayes High School boys lacrosse team is looking to prepare to face a new level of postseason competition and replace five of its six all-state performers from last season after winning its second consecutive club state championship.
That's a tall order for first-year coach John Lyon, who has replaced Sean Ryan.
"We lost a large and very talented senior class which helped put us on the map, but we've got a lot of talent remaining as we turn the page (from the club division) to compete in Division II," Lyon said. "The returning guys want to prove that this program is built for the long run, not just having short-term success."
Senior defenders Bryan Neitzelt and James Wegmiller are among seven key returnees from last season, when the Pacers finished 18-3 overall, went 4-2 in the seven-team OCC-Central Division to tie Pickerington North for second behind Pickerington Central (6-0) and beat Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas 17-7 in the state final. Delaware allowed a total of 19 goals in its four postseason games.
"Bryan Neitzelt is moving from long-stick midfielder to defender and will be joined by James Wegmiller as we try to replace a number of holes defensively," said Lyon, whose team opened March 28 at North Oldham (Ky.) and played March 29 at Louisville (Ky.) DuPont Manual. "Both are extremely gifted and versatile. We've got three or four guys vying for the third and fourth spots defensively, and they're a cohesive unit."
The other key returnees are senior midfielders MacGregor Roberts, Clay Sparks and Tyler Zinader, junior midfielder Joseph Sanfillipo and junior attacker Judson Huston.
In the state final last season, Roberts and Huston both scored three goals and Sanfillipo had two goals and an assist. Huston was second on the team in goals (40) and points (57) last season.
Roberts, who had 27 goals and 35 points, was fifth in team scoring last year, followed by Joseph Sanfillipo (21 goals, 31 points).
Neitzelt was named first-team all-state and all-region. Sanfillipo and Wegmiller were second-team all-region.
"Roberts is an All-American-caliber midfielder," said Lyon, whose team opens league play Wednesday, April 2, at home against Westerville North. "He's big, strong, fast and has a phenomenal shot."
Lyon expects big contributions from three attackers in senior Zack Kern, junior Collin Ward and freshman Cole Livermore, sophomore midfielders Sean Gliebe and Justin McKee and juniors Austen Kimbro and Joey Grani and sophomore Gareth Ulmer on defense.
Vying for the starting goalkeeper position are senior Dusty Hines, junior Shawn Yost, sophomore Jason Brooks and freshman Tyler Groth.
The Pacers lost 17 players from last season to graduation, including defenders Jordan Carlson and Andrew Ward, goalie Michael Duffy and attackers Griffin Kinney and Dominic Sanfillipo. All were first-team all-state except Sanfillipo, who made second-team.
Kinney, who led the team in goals (45) and points (64) a year ago, scored seven goals in the state final and was named the game's Offensive MVP. He also was named Central Region and state Attacker of the Year.
Carlson was named Defensive MVP in the state final.
Girls lacrosse coach familiar with players
Dennis Palmquist, who has replaced Erica Pittmann as coach of the girls lacrosse team, is familiar with most of the players in the program.
"I started the girls program seven years ago at the fourth-grade level," Palmquist said. "I know we have some very talented individuals and I want to help them reach a level of success."
Delaware, which finished 4-13 overall last season, lost five players from a year ago to graduation but returns 11 players who earned starting time.
Returning on attack are seniors Lindsey Hayward and Morgan Maley and junior Arden Palmquist, the coach's daughter. Returning in the midfield are seniors Katie Barnhart and Taylor Henderson, juniors Madison Laskowski and Rachel Nicodemus and sophomore Lindsey Bosiokovic.
The Pacers also return two defenders in junior Willow Mollenkopf and sophomore Celeste Smith and junior goalie Callie Nicholson.
Competing for playing time in goal is senior Morgan Eiland.
"I'm expecting a lot of Katie Barnhart in her senior year," said coach Palmquist, whose team opened March 29 against Hilliard Darby. "The same goes with Taylor Henderson. I really expect the young girls to develop and we could see breakout years from Rachel Nicodemus, Madison Laskowski and Lindsey Bosiokovic.
"Our top players have a lot of experience, lacrosse IQ and communication. In general, we have a lot of individual lacrosse skills and can handle the ball. Regardless of how good they are individually, they need to work together as a team, something they've struggled to do. Teamwork will be the key to our success."
Also on the team are seniors Tara Grace and Caitlyn Tobin, juniors Kelly Estrada and Taylor Stover, sophomores Maddie Ertz, Hannah Kern and Leia O'Leary and freshmen Sarah Awenowicz, Gabriele Cockerham, Kristen Dunham, Maeve Gattenbee, Ali Nicodemus and Brooke Rutledge.
Delaware went 1-6 in the eight-team OCC-Central last season to place seventh behind champion Pickerington North (7-0). This season, the Pacers are playing in the five-team OCC-Capital with Big Walnut, New Albany, Olentangy and Olentangy Orange. Big Walnut went 0-7 in the OCC-Central a year ago.
Delaware opens OCC-Capital play April 17 at Olentangy.
Craun, Willis leading boys volleyball team
The boys volleyball team returns just two letterwinners from last season in 5-foot-10 junior opposite hitter and libero Robbie Craun and 6-3 junior setter and outside hitter Kyle Willis.
Last season, Delaware finished 5-20 overall and 1-9 in the six-team OCC-Capital to tie for fifth.
"Kyle will be the best leader for this team, which is very young," said first-year coach Ryan Treese, whose team opens Tuesday, April 1, with a league match at home against Pickerington Central. "He is a football player and understands what it takes to be a leader."
According to Treese, Willis is the team's best hitter, but will likely play setter much of the season because freshman Jacob Queen is expected to be sidelined five weeks with an ankle injury.
The Pacers have size in their lineup with 6-6 junior Justin DeWitt and 6-3 sophomore Alex Blackburn at middle hitter and 6-2 senior Ryan Nethers and 6-2 junior Cole Haferman at outside hitter.
Sophomore Johnny Co is expected to start at libero.
Rounding out the roster are senior Brandon Walcott (outside hitter), sophomores Mike Kempton (middle hitter) and Dillan Patel (opposite hitter/defensive specialist) and freshmen Griffin Arthur (defensive specialist), Connor Homola (outside hitter), Dallan Miller (opposite hitter), Demetrius Stork (outside hitter/opposite hitter), Doug Wehrle (opposite hitter) and Ryan Willis (opposite hitter).
"We need to improve in all areas because we have so many new players (who) have never played before," Treese said. "The timing with (the) hitters and setter will be important and we'll have to win with defense until later in the season."