Having returned 10 starters, Dublin Jerome High School field hockey coach Colleen Bender is optimistic that her team will improve on last season.
The Celtics, who finished 5-10-2 overall a year ago, opened Aug. 28 against New Albany.
"This is the most experienced team we've ever had and I've been pleasantly surprised with how far advanced the girls are this early in the season," Bender said. "They're already doing things like transitioning the ball and making smart decisions as well as past teams have done them toward the middle of the season. I guess that's the benefit of having 14 seniors."
The returning starters are seniors Tara Blake (defender), Ashlynn Burns (midfielder), Emma Frazier (defender), Kylie Huesman (attacker), Rachel Keating (attacker), Katie Kendall (midfielder), Cami Kowalski (midfielder), Christina McGregor (defen-der), Alex Petersen (attacker) and Prathibha Srikantan (goalkeeper).
Also on the team are seniors Lauren Daughtery (defender), Kate Frabott (midfielder), Kelly Lane (forward) and Kailey Zhang (attacker), juniors Danielle Baiocchi (midfielder) and Madison Redd (forward), sophomores Kailee King (midfielder), Claire Koontz (defender), Claire Prenger (goalie) and McKenna Russell (defender) and freshman Grace Cochran (forward).
"Our defenders and midfielders are strong, and our goalie is the most improved person on our team," Bender said. "We don't have one star, but they all can play hockey across the field and they worked hard in the offseason together."
The Central Ohio Field Hockey League has been split into two divisions this season and Jerome is in the West with Coffman, Scioto, Olentangy, Olentangy Liberty, Olentangy Orange, Thomas Worthington and Upper Arlington.
The East is comprised of defending state champion Columbus Academy, Bexley, Columbus School for Girls, Granville, Hartley, Lancaster, New Albany, Watterson and Worthington Kilbourne.
The champions of the East and West divisions will meet for the overall COFHL title Oct. 12.
Last year, the Celtics finished 4-5-2 in the COFHL behind champion Academy (11-0). They lost to Academy 4-0 in a district semifinal.
"This team has the potential to have a winning season and make it past the second round of district," Bender said. "It all comes down to how well we put the ball behind the goalie because scoring has been our nemesis in the past."
Irish looking to surprise opponents
The primary goal for Scioto is to build on last season, when it went 3-13 overall, 3-8 in the COFHL and lost to Watterson 6-0 in its district tournament opener.
"We have some experience with five seniors on our team and our younger players are super athletic and eager to learn the sport," coach Jason Perlman said. "I think we're going to surpass what we accomplished last year and we may surprise some folks by the end of the year."
Scioto, which opened Aug. 27 with a COFHL-West contest against Thomas Worthington, features three fourth-year starters in seniors Madeline Baron (defender), Amel Khalife (defender) and Brooklyn Robertson (midfielder). The Irish return five other starters in senior Angela Lontoc (defender), juniors Brenna Hubschmann (midfielder), Emily King (attacker) and Nikki McFadden (attacker) and sophomore Sarah Mitchell (goalie).
Rounding out the roster are senior Minna Akutsu (midfielder), juniors Shivangi Bhardwaj (defender), Cadee Gooden (defender) and Sami Vazquez (midfielder), sophomores Kayleigh Bowman (attacker) and Reeya Desai (attacker) and freshmen Alexis Kennedy (midfielder), Julia Kovach (defender) and McKenzie Lomax (attacker).
"This is the second-most experienced team we've had in my five years here," Perlman said. "We may not be able to compete skill-wise with the best teams, but this is the best we've played as a team since I've been here.
"In the past, we've had good players who tended to take over games, but this group is incorporating everyone and getting them involved, which is making our entire team better."
Shamrocks loaded with experience
Coffman coach Caren Leslie is looking for her team to top what it accomplished last season, when it went 10-6 overall, 8-3 in the COFHL and lost to Watterson 1-0 in a district semifinal.
The Shamrocks opened Aug. 21 with a 7-0 win over Lancaster and beat Kilbourne 2-1 on Aug. 26.
"We're hoping to get to a district final this year because we have the talent to go a long way," Leslie said. "We tied Columbus Academy at zero in a scrimmage and lost to Thomas Worthington 1-0 in another scrimmage, so we've been pretty even with some of the best teams in the area and our confidence is growing."
The Shamrocks return nine starters in seniors Carly Anson (attacker), Maria Guerrero (midfielder), Katie Lemieux (defender), Marisa Martin (defender), Kate Meeks (midfielder), Kelly Murphy (attacker) and Emma Vander Stoep (midfielder) and juniors Emily Goliver (goalie) and Abbey Willette (midfielder).
Lemieux is an Ohio State recruit and Anson has committed to Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky. Meeks, who had three goals against Lancaster, is being recruited by several colleges, according to Leslie.
Filling out the roster are seniors Allison Durthaler (goalie) and Kaitlin Whitty (attacker), juniors Sarah DeSalvio (attacker), Emily Miller (defender), Megan Paolini (defender) and Brooke Zavesky (attacker), sophomores Daniela Dluzynski (attacker), Katie Gatt (defen-der), Sarah Groce (midfielder), Gillian Pace (attacker) and Dana Pajk (midfielder) and freshman Shannon Aumiller (defender).
"This is the most experienced and talented team I've had," Leslie said. "They played club and 20 of them attended a camp at Indiana University. That really helped with their skill level."