Hilliard Davidson High School is counting on one of its own to change the fortunes of the girls lacrosse team.
Anne Bowen, a 2002 Davidson graduate who earned all-state honors as a junior and senior, takes over for co-coaches John Walko and Chad Smock, both of whom stepped down after just one season.
Last season, the Wildcats finished 2-10 overall, losing to Dublin Scioto 18-10 in the first round of the Division I South/Central Region tournament, and went 0-6 in the OCC-Ohio Division to place seventh, behind Olentangy Liberty (6-0), Bradley (4-2), Olentangy Orange (4-2), Olentangy (3-2), Scioto (2-3) and Dublin Jerome (1-5). A game between Olentangy and Scioto was canceled.
"I was an assistant coach at Davidson under (current Bradley coach) Becky Mottlow in 2009 and (former coach) Mark Buroff in 2010," said Bowen, a first-time head coach who was an assistant at New Albany last season and played at Roanoke College in Salem, Va., and Wittenberg University. "I'm looking forward to working with these girls that have the great distinction of being Davidson lacrosse players as I once was."
The Wildcats, who open Tuesday, April 2, with a league game at Liberty, return their top three scorers from last season in senior midfielder Rachelle Walko (44 goals, 4 assists), junior midfielder Christine Kausel (32 goals, 2 assists) and junior attacker Lane Garrett (14 goals, 3 assists) and their starting goalkeeper, senior Marie Austin (145 saves).
Key returnees on defense are seniors Surya Freeman, Sandra Goya, Morgan Kelley and Nicole Truman.
Walko, who was named first-team all-league last year, has signed to play at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and Austin, who was second-team all-league, has committed to play for Wheeling Jesuit in West Virginia. Kausel was honorable mention all-league.
The Wildcats''11-player senior class also includes Alexis Fugitt (attacker), Naomi Hone (attacker), Emily Lee (midfielder/attacker), Tricia Woellert (midfielder) and Carrie White (midfielder/attacker).
"This team has great chemistry and works well together," Bowen said. "We have a number of returning letterwinners, only losing one senior last year. These girls have been playing together for a few years now and know how to read one another. This will be extremely helpful during play."
Also on the roster are juniors Tre'nique Kington (defender) and Marisa Smock (goalie), sophomores Jamie Chau (midfielder) and Christina Harmon (defender) and freshmen Libby Calland (defender) and Olivia Starcher (midfielder/attacker).
"We will be working on putting in a new offense and a solid zone defense into play, and this may be a bit rough for us at first, but we will make it work through practices and scrimmages," Bowen said. "Additionally, with a few new coaches, it always takes a bit of time to get used to the new styles of coaching that each one of us has."
Panthers want to steadily improve
Darby also has a new coach in Dennis Moore, a former assistant track and field and cross country coach at the school.
Moore, who also worked with the Panthers' indoor lacrosse team, replaced Jessica Taylor, who coached the team for one season. Last year, Darby finished 3-13 overall, placed sixth in the OCC-Buckeye and lost to Bradley 17-8 in its opener in the Division I South/Central Region tournament.
The Panthers, who open Saturday, March 30, at Chillicothe, went 0-5 in the league to finish behind Upper Arlington (5-0), New Albany (4-1), Worthington Kilbourne (3-2), Thomas Worthington (2-3) and Dublin Coffman (1-4).
"Back in November, the girls came together and started a weight-training program," Moore said. "They formed a very tight bond as they learned to work together three nights a week. I feel a team strength is that closeness and with their trust with each other."
The Panthers have three seniors in midfielders Becca Heicher, Hannah Moore and Emma Schaefer. Heicher was honorable mention all-league last year.
Other key returnees in the midfield are junior Kenzie Van Cleef and sophomore Nycole Carter.
"We want to work on our fundamentals, continue to work hard at every practice and make improvements one day at a time," coach Moore said. "Finally, we want to always be relentless and never give up."
Rounding out the team are juniors Maddie Harmon (goalie), Ozria Jagel (attacker), Kendell Klein (defender), Prya Mehra (defender), Pareesa Nabi (defender) and Danielle Wheeler (defender), sophomores Thuraya Abdel Qader (attacker), Dillon Brown (goalie), Sarah Hassan (defender) and Wallia Saif (defender) and freshmen Karly Dearth (defender), Natalie Dixon (midfielder), Julie Green (attacker), Sarah Helenberger (defender), Khalia Moore (defender), Bri Rampi (midfielder) and Jenna Wendel (defender).
"We would like to have more girls out for lacrosse so that we could have a (junior varsity) team, but we will take what we can get and do the best we can," coach Moore said. "My assistant coach, Katy Clark, and I have a vision of where we want Darby girls lacrosse to go and it starts with our underclassmen and the middle school. That's our future."