Jessica Taylor loves the challenge of taking over the Hilliard Darby High School girls lacrosse team.

Jessica Taylor loves the challenge of taking over the Hilliard Darby High School girls lacrosse team.

It's her first time leading a program after stints as an assistant with the Westerville United Club team, Westerville Central High School and Dublin Sells Middle School and as a volunteer assistant with Watterson and Park Hills (Ky.) Notre Dame Academy.

"I became interested in coaching at Darby because I want to build a program," said Taylor, who replaced Johnny Ulry, who resigned as coach to focus on leading the Darby boys soccer program. "Since lacrosse is still growing in Hilliard, now is the perfect time to start building.

"I am also very fortunate to have a great deal of support in building this program from the athletic department. Beyond wanting to build a program, I have a fantastic group of young players who are terrific ambassadors of the program and of the sport."

The Panthers finished 6-11 overall last season, losing to Mason 19-4 in the second round of the Division I South/Central Region tournament after beating Pickerington Central 18-2 in the first round.

Darby finished last (0-5) in the OCC-Buckeye Division last year, behind New Albany (5-0), Upper Arlington (4-1), Thomas Worthington (3-2), Worthington Kilbourne (2-3) and Dublin Coffman (1-4).

Taylor continues to tinker with the lineup, so positions have yet to be determined, aside from the goalkeepers being sophomore Maddie Harmon and freshman Dillon Brown.

The Panthers have two seniors in Jessica Rice and Anna Schaefer, who is a captain along with juniors Becca Heicher and Hannah Moore. The only other junior is Emma Schaefer.

"We have four returning upperclassmen in Anna Schaefer, Jessi Rice, Becca Heicher and Hannah Moore," Taylor said. "They know the sport and have the ability to play any position on the field. Not only are they very talented players, but all of them are leaders.

"We also have a sophomore class that has been showing a lot of potential. And some previous j.v. players who have stepped up this year and earned spots as varsity starters."

Rounding out the Darby roster are sophomores Abby Connell, Whitney Jaeb, Ozzria Jagel, Priya Mehra, Pareesa Nabi, Deja Scott and Kenzie Van Cleef and freshmen Thuraya Abdel, Nycole Carter, Sarah Hassan and Wallia Saif.

The Panthers lost their opener to the Lebanon club team 17-5 on March 24.

"We need to continue working toward mastering the fundamentals as we move forward through the season," said Taylor, whose team opens its OCC-Buckeye schedule Tuesday, April 3, at home against UA. "We have been focusing less on individual skills and more on playing as a team. Team play includes communication on the field, a settled offense and field-situational awareness. The girls are fully capable of this, but with so many new faces to the varsity team this year, it would be naive not to expect a few bumps in the road."

Wildcats counting on young players to step up

Davidson returns four letterwinners from last season in senior midfielder Carrie Kuder, junior goalkeeper Marie Austin, junior midfielder Rachelle Walko and sophomore goalie Marisa Smock.

The Wildcats finished 6-8 overall last season, losing to Watterson 9-7 in the opening round of the Division I South/Central Region tournament.

Davidson finished fourth (3-3) in the OCC-Ohio, behind Olentangy (6-0), Olentangy Liberty (3-2) and Olentangy Orange (3-2) and ahead of Dublin Jerome (2-4), Hilliard Bradley (2-4) and Dublin Scioto (1-5).

Liberty and Orange did not make up their league game.

"I like our effort and willingness to work as a team," said first-year coach John Walko, who replaced Mark Buroff, who stepped down but then returned as an assistant with the program. "We have some young players ready to take that next step."

Also on the team are juniors Surya Freeman (defender), Alexa Fugitt (attacker), Sandra Goya (defender), Morgan Kelley (defender), Emily Lee (attacker), Nicole Truman (defender), Carrie White (midfielder) and Tricia Woellert (defender) and sophomores Lane Garrett (attacker) and Christine Kausel (attacker).

Walko had 28 goals last season and was named second-team all-league along with Austin.

"We have a very young team and we are trying to get all of the girls to work as a unit," said coach Walko, whose team opens April 5 at home against Bexley. "The older girls are mentoring the younger girls in an effort to improve their skills.

"We still have several challenges to get through this year, with several girls juggling between varsity and j.v. We have to continue to grow as coaches and the players need to grow along with us."

Experience should help Jaguars improve

Bradley returns almost its entire lineup from a year ago when it finished 7-10 overall, losing to Columbus Academy 16-6 in the second round of the Division II South/Central Region tournament after beating DeSales 13-8 in the opening round.

The Jaguars tied Jerome for fifth in the OCC-Ohio last year.

"We only graduated one senior (Lauren Biller) last year and have almost everyone back," said third-year coach Becky Mottlow, whose team opens Tuesday, April 3, at home against Westerville North. "We're in our third year together and the girls play well together on the field. One of the amazing things is the way our freshmen have stepped in."

The roster consists of seniors Marianne Ickes (attacker), Amber Pharazyn (defender), Alex Schell (goalie), Sydney VanHoose (midfielder/defender) and Makayla Vidosh (defender), juniors Amanda Capriato (goalie), Kwynn Herr (midfielder), Hannah Jasper (attacker), MacKenzie Mignery (midfielder), Sam Minnich (defender), Jessica Rains (midfielder), Kirsten Tindal (midfielder) and Nicole Tindal (attacker), sophomore Andress Bolger (attacker) and freshmen Alex Anton (midfielder), Kyra Loughridge (midfielder/goalie) and Sarah Sprague (defender).

Defender Caitlyn Cote did not return for her senior season because of a knee injury.

According to Mottlow, Herr, Mignery and VanHoose are the team's top offensive players.

"We're incorporating new girls and teaching them our strategies," Mottlow said. "We still need to work on defensive strategies. Some of these girls have only played for two years, so we'll be adding things and fine-tuning the fundamentals."