When he became New Albany's middle school boys lacrosse coach in 2007, Chris Brown hoped he could instill love of the sport in his seventh-graders and help create a legacy.
Five years later, Brown -- now in his second season as New Albany High School's varsity coach -- looks at the three seniors who have been with him since that first day and knows he has succeeded.
Of the more than 20 seventh-graders Brown coached that first year, defenders Sean Conley and Louis Zuk and midfielder Matt Puleri remain. They have been a driving force this season as the Eagles have overcome an early slump to enter the week 6-6 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division.
"It's been great seeing them growing basically from little kids into grown men," said Brown, who became an assistant coach three years ago, when the three were freshmen. "I have enjoyed my time with them, and I hope they've enjoyed their time with me. It's definitely something that I really enjoy as a coach, the relationships I've developed with the players, not so much the wins and losses."
Puleri entered the week with 13 goals, and Conley and Zuk were anchoring a defense that allowed double-digit goals just three times through 12 games. But Brown was quick to say trying to figure out which middle school players will be solid contributors down the road is an inexact science.
"It's pretty impossible to tell at that age," he said. "You have an idea if a kid is going to be pretty good, but there's really only one kid I ever coached in middle school who was absolutely like that, and that's (2011 graduate) Grant Pendrey. He ended up being first-team all-state."
Conley started as a freshman, with Zuk becoming a key contributor as a sophomore and Puleri following suit a year later. Brown has used Conley, a second team all-region defender last year, almost everywhere on the field.
Zuk, an honorable mention all-region and second-team all-state defender last year who also has played football and wrestled for the Eagles, was effusive in praising Brown.
"He's gotten me to where I am today," Zuk said. "He's very driven. He knows what he wants and coaches us to what we need to do to get to that goal. We'll do whatever it takes to get us there."
Puleri scored 10 goals as a junior and was second-team all-region. He has shared the scoring load with sophomore attacker Ryan Dunn, who entered the week with a team-high 28 goals, including six in a 17-11 win over Gahanna on May 1.
The Eagles, who were 3-6 after a 9-8 overtime loss to defending Division II state champion DeSales on April 24, entered the week coming off wins over Columbus Academy (6-3 on April 27), Gahanna and Granville (5-4 on May 3).
"We're either hitting it and doing everything right and having a good day, or for whatever reason people aren't focused," Puleri said. "If we can figure out what it is that gets us going, gets us working together and gets all the cogs flowing, then that's when we do well. But we haven't figured it out yet."
Girls lacrosse team heating up
The girls lacrosse team's 18-17 loss at Upper Arlington on May 1 in an OCC-Buckeye game was tough for the Eagles to accept, especially considering they squandered a 16-12 lead with 12 minutes, 21 seconds to play.
But coach Dave Ferguson was adamant that his team not let only its third loss linger. The Eagles responded by defeating Okemos (Mich.) 12-9 on May 3 and tying defending Division I state champion Medina at 12 on May 4.
"We had four false starts (against UA) and we hadn't had one all year coming into that game," said Ferguson, whose team entered the week 8-4-1 overall and 3-1 in the OCC-Buckeye.
"It was a back-and-forth game, but we battled hard to the end and we're proud of where we are.
"The girls know we are playing a challenging schedule, and they accept that sometimes not everything's going to go how we planned."
New Albany entered the week ranked fifth in the state by LaxPower.com, behind Division I schools Medina, UA, Mason and Cincinnati Sycamore. The Eagles lost to Mason 14-13 in overtime April 6 and 9-6 to Sycamore on April 20.
The Eagles were expecting to play the next few games without senior attacker Katie Hernandez, who sprained an ankle last week. She had 19 goals entering the week, fourth on the team behind senior attackers Elaina Enich (48) and Morgan Fee (34) and junior attacker Abby Manning (30).
Softball players setting records
Junior Kaitlyn Gliha of the softball team hit her seventh home run May 2, breaking New Albany's season record, and set the season record for RBI two days later.
Gliha, a Miami University recruit who has played shortstop and outfield this year, broke the home run record in the fifth inning of a 4-3 loss to Delaware with a two-run shot. She added her eighth and ninth home runs in a 12-8 win over Central Crossing on May 4 at DeSales, hitting a three-run homer in the first and a two-run homer in the second.
Gliha added another RBI in an 8-7 loss to DeSales, giving her 39 entering the week.
Sophomore shortstop/outfielder Jamie Sevenish also set a school record by scoring her 33rd run of the season last weekend.
Through 23 games, Gliha led New Albany in batting average (.529) and RBI and was second in hits (36) behind Sevenish (42).