For a second consecutive season, the start of the Dublin Coffman High School field hockey team's season has been accompanied by tragedy.

For a second consecutive season, the start of the Dublin Coffman High School field hockey team's season has been accompanied by tragedy.

On July 21, senior defender Malory Berschet's mother, Alanna, died two days after being diagnosed with leukemia. Coach Kristy McLean's mother, Dori, died Sept. 8, 2007, nearly four years after she was diagnosed with cancer.

McLean said those tragedies have brought the Shamrocks closer together.

"It's remarkable to see how much her teammates have rallied around Malory and supported her," said McLean, whose team opened last Tuesday against Bexley and will play today at Olentangy Liberty and Wednesday at home against Dublin Scioto. "I know from experience that's it is extremely tough to lose your mother, but the girls have taken Malory under their wing and helped her deal with it."

Last year, Coffman finished 5-10 after losing to Worthington Kilbourne 1-0 in the first round of the district tournament.

Playing defense are seniors Berschet and Ellen Blatt, junior Bridget Lemieux and sophomore Allison Gray. Sophomore Sarah Lemieux will start in goal.

Competing in the midfield are senior Morgan Grill, juniors Sarah Bergman and Arianna Gianakopoulos, sophomore Shelby Hermann and freshmen Rachel Ulstead and Maggie Watson.

Manning the forward positions are senior Erin VanTine, juniors Elizabeth Jones and Kate Sherry and sophomores Jane Blatt, Jennifer Fannon and Jessica Fusco.

"Our offense has gotten better and I think we're going to score more goals than we typically do," McLean said. "Our midfield should be the strength of our team. Ari Gianakopoulos is wonderful at switching the field from center midfield. Our defense has really stepped up, and our goalkeeper's been making some unbelievable saves. With all the improvements we've made, I expect our wins to double from last year. We want to make it past the first round of the district tournament to prove we are a good team that should be respected."

Jerome, which finished 7-6-2 last year after losing to Columbus School for Girls 2-1 in the first round of the district tournament, beat the Unicorns 3-0 last Monday in its opener and played Columbus Academy last Wednesday. The Celtics will play host Wednesday to Bexley.

Six starters have returned in seniors Grace Dunn (forward), Jenna Heaphy (midfielder), Cori Hundley (defender) and Lauren Johnson (defender), junior Eloise Irwin (midfielder) and sophomore Gabriele Marotta (forward).

The Celtics totaled 24 goals a year ago, with Dunn scoring 11 and Marotta adding six.

Also on the roster are seniors Kayla Barker (midfielder), Steph Baley (forward), Lauren Davidson (forward), Lauren Floro (defender), Yena Park (goalkeeper) and Sarah Wallschlaeger (defender), juniors Ashley Colby (forward) and Allie Corvese (forward) and sophomore Carrie Mount (goalkeeper).

"Our defense and midfield are pretty strong," coach Colleen Quinn said. "Our problem, every year, has been finishing in the circle. We're working on that. Our goal is always to get past the first round of district. We have a very positive group of girls, so I think we'll be successful."

Scioto, which finished 2-14 overall last year after losing to eventual state champion Columbus Academy 6-0 in the first round of the district tournament, opened last Monday with a 10-0 loss to Thomas Worthington and played Bexley last Wednesday. The Irish, who were shut out in all 14 losses, will play Saturday at Oxford Talawanda and Tuesday at Lancaster.

Leading Scioto is senior goalkeeper Chelsea Powell, who had a program-record 443 saves and gave up 59 goals last year.

Returning to start on defense are senior Sarah Coughlin and juniors Hannah Miller and Emily Temple. Senior Cat Serafin and sophomore Megan Baron are expected to add depth to the defense.

Playing forward will be juniors Hope Brower and Jessica Skillman and freshman Danielle Livingston.

Vying for playing time in the midfield are seniors Ashley Cook and Tori Shade, juniors Taylor Bush, Erin Heldman, Courtney Shade and Reana Thomas, sophomores Sam Colello, Jenna Huntsman and Emily Kelley and freshman Essence Morrow.

"Our goalie is back again, and she is fabulous," coach Kerri Ward said. "We also have a lot more speed on our offensive line in some new players (Hope and Livingston) combined with one of our veterans (Skillman). Most of our defense is back, and we are really looking forward to using two of our new people (Baron and Serafin) to round that out.

"The girls have worked hard these first couple of weeks, and I've quickly realized that one thing we are not lacking is aggressiveness. The girls are also very quick learners, so I'm anticipating that we can sneak in a few more wins than we had last year."

At a glance

COFFMAN

Coach: Kristy McLean, second season

Next game: Today at Olentangy Liberty

Key players: Sarah Bergman, Arianna Gianakopoulos and Elizabeth Jones

JEROME

Coach: Colleen Quinn, fifth season

Next game: Wednesday vs. Bexley

Key players: Grace Dunn, Jenna Heaphy, Cori Hundley, Eloise Irwin, Lauren Johnson and Gabriele Marotta

SCIOTO

Coach: Kerri Ward, fifth season

Next game: Saturday at Oxford Talawanda

Key players: Sarah Coughlin, Chelsea Powell and Emily Temple