She watched from the sideline, but senior mid-fielder/attacker Elaina Enich of the New Albany High School girls lacrosse team was -- and still is -- as upset as any of her teammates about a 17-13 loss to Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown in the Division II state final last year.
"We've just had a chip on our shoulder ever since," said Enich, a University of Cincinnati signee who missed the final two-plus games of 2012 because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament sustained during an 18-3 victory over Cincinnati Indian Hill in the South/Central Region final. "We have a lot of unfinished business this year. We have high expectations and most of the time, we meet our goals."
The Eagles return seven seniors from a team that went 16-4 overall and made its sixth consecutive state tournament appearance, defeating Chagrin Falls 15-12 in a state semifinal before falling to Hathaway Brown.
Enich, who scored 70 goals last season and was named first-team all-state and honorable mention All-American by US Lacrosse, is expected to pace the team along with classmates Morgan Breen (attacker), Morgan Fee (midfielder, 50 goals, 21 assists), Betsy Hamilton (defender), Samantha Harkless (defender), Katie Hernandez (attacker, 32 goals, 50 assists) and Rachael Yoho (defender).
Fee, a first-team all-region honoree last year, is an Ohio State signee. Yoho will play at Division III Alma College in Alma, Mich.
"We just look for (Fee) to have a dominating year," said third-year coach Dave Ferguson, whose team opens April 6 at home against Mason. "She's tremendous on the draw and an all-around complete player."
Other expected impact players include junior attacker Abby Manning -- who scored five goals in the state final and had 30 last year -- as well as sophomore midfielder Maisey Bango and freshman attacker Liza Hernandez. Competing to be the starting goalkeeper are sophomores Kathleen Schell and Madison Spellman and freshman Grace Anthony.
"This is a unique position we're in," Ferguson said. "We just have a situation that's unusual where all of these girls are young. It's a challenge not having an experienced goalie in this kind of competitive situation. But it's early."
New Albany went 4-1 in the OCC-Buckeye Division last year to finish second behind eventual Division I state runner-up Upper Arlington (5-0) and ahead of Worthington Kilbourne (3-2), Thomas Worthington (2-3), Dublin Coffman (1-4) and Hilliard Darby (0-5).
The Eagles begin league play at home April 8 against Darby. The non-league schedule features a home game against Division I state semifinalist Cincinnati Sycamore on April 20 and a stretch with games against last year's Michigan Division II runner-up, Okemos, at home May 3 and a trip to Medina the next day to play the defending Division I state champion Battling Bees and East Grand Rapids (Mich.), which defeated Okemos in their state final.
The Eagles also will play Hathaway Brown during the Cleveland Heights Invitational scheduled for April 26 and 27.
"We believe in a long, tough season," Fee said. "We occasionally get a break, but not too much. That's what's going to prepare us."
Boys lacrosse team hoping to reload
The loss of 11 seniors from a year ago, including its top four scorers, has forced the boys lacrosse team to spend more time practicing fundamentals in pursuit of its second consecutive OCC-Ohio title.
However, the Eagles return the entire defense other than goalkeeper Connor Hinson.
"(The defense) is going to lead the way at the beginning of the season and hopefully the offense will catch up. We'll see what they've got the first few games," said second-year coach Chris Brown, whose team went 13-6 overall last year and lost to Kent Roosevelt 12-9 in a Division II Central Region semifinal. "The biggest thing for these guys is just picking up their level of play to varsity expectations. Being a disciplined, fundamental team is what will win us games early because we're not going to be able to rely solely on talent."
Expected leaders include seniors Sean Conley (defen-der, second-team all-region in 2012), Matt Puleri (midfielder, 10 goals, second-team all-region) and Louis Zuk (defender, honorable mention all-region, second all-state), juniors Garrett Greco (attacker, 14 goals), Trevor Lambert (defender) and Drew Little (long-stick midfielder) and sophomore Ryan Dunn (attacker). They'll be tasked with making up for the 128 goals lost with the graduation of Brendan Bower (38, second-team all-region), Zach Pewitt (26, first-team all-region, honorable mention all-state), Ben Schottenstein (35, second-team all-region) and Jason Weir (29, honorable mention all-region).
"We have a bunch of young kids who are willing to learn and they're getting better," Conley said. "We have a handful of guys that played last year, so not everything is new."
New Albany went 5-1 to tie Olentangy for first in the OCC-Ohio last season ahead of Gahanna (4-2), Olentangy Liberty (4-2), Hilliard Bradley (2-4), Darby (1-5) and Olentangy Orange (0-6). The Eagles defeated Olentangy 7-5 during the regular season and beat Watterson 8-4 in the first round of the postseason.
Brown said sophomore Jackson Beckman and junior Doug Collins are competing to replace Hinson in goal.
The Eagles open Thursday, March 28, at Thomas Worthington before playing seven consecutive home games beginning Saturday, March 30, against Dublin Coffman. New Albany's league opener is Wednesday, April 3, against Olentangy.