A 14-13 loss to traditional state power Mason in its opener served notice of how the New Albany High School girls lacrosse team's season would go.
The Eagles went 15-4-1 and averaged 14.5 goals per game playing a schedule that included eventual Division I state champion Upper Arlington and Division II runner-up Worthington Kilbourne in OCC-Buckeye Division play, as well as three-time defending Division I champion Medina and defending Division II champion Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown.
So, trailing Hathaway Brown by five goals in a Division II state semifinal and Kilbourne by four in the final didn't faze New Albany. The Eagles came back in both games and defeated the Wolves 11-10 on June 1 at Thomas Worthington to win their first state championship since 2009.
"I have goose bumps and it's about 85 degrees out here," said junior attacker Abby Manning, who scored the winning goal against Kilbourne with 1 minute, 33 seconds to play. "I feel so close to my team right now. We all did it together."
Senior attacker Elaina Enich had a team-high 87 goals with six assists, and senior attacker Morgan Fee had 52 goals and 34 assists while winning a team-best 143 draws. Both were first-team all-league, all-region, all-state and All-American.
Enich is a University of Cincinnati signee, Fee will play at Ohio State and senior defender Rachael Yoho will play at Alma (Mich.) College.
Senior attacker Katie Hernandez scored 34 goals and led the Eagles in assists with 57. She was first-team all-league and all-region, second-team all-state and an academic All-American with Enich and senior attacker Morgan Breen.
"When you think about Morgan Fee on the draw, she is just dominant. She is one of the best players in the state of Ohio," said coach Dave Ferguson, who completed his third season. "She's a first-team All-American, as is Elaina Enich. That says it all. They are state champs. They played the toughest schedule. All of them were just tremendous all year."
The Eagles went 4-1 in the OCC-Buckeye, finishing behind UA (5-0) and ahead of Kilbourne (3-2), Thomas (2-3), Dublin Coffman (1-4) and Hilliard Darby (0-5).
New Albany earned the top seed in the Division II South/Central Region tournament and won three home games to start the postseason. After a first-round bye, the Eagles defeated Granville 18-6 in a second-round game May 16, Wellington 20-6 in a regional semifinal May 21 and Cincinnati Mariemont 13-8 in a regional final May 23.
In a state semifinal May 31 at Thomas, the Eagles avenged their 17-13 loss to Hathaway Brown in last year's state final with a 19-17 win, erasing a 13-8 deficit.
"Lacrosse is all about who gets the first possession and gets down and scores, and we dominated that way," Hernandez said. "Our defense has been doing well all season (allowing 9.3 goals) and they came through for us (in the state tournament). Toward the end we all came together."
Senior defender Samantha Harkless and Manning were second-team all-league and all-region. Senior defender Betsy Hamilton was second-team all-league.
Among the Eagles' expected returnees are freshman attacker Liza Hernandez (20 goals, 11 assists, honorable mention all-league and all-region) and freshman goalkeepers Grace Anthony (27 saves) and Kathleen Schell (67 saves). Anthony played the second half of both state tournament games, making three saves against Hathaway Brown and seven against Kilbourne.
Young boys lacrosse team went far
The boys lacrosse team expects to return most of the key players from a squad that went 10-11 overall and 3-3 in the OCC-Ohio, but still advanced to the Division II Central Region final.
Sophomore attacker Ryan Dunn had team highs of 50 goals and 13 assists, sophomore midfielder Christo Semertsidis had 22 goals and three assists and junior attacker Garrett Greco had 20 goals and three assists. Sophomore goalkeeper Doug Collins saved 202 of 348 shots (58 percent) and was first-team all-league, first-team all-region and second-team all-state.
"Doug came up big in the cage and made some big saves," second-year coach Chris Brown said. "The defense got us going all year, led by (seniors) Sean Conley and Louis Zuk. We always fought hard."
New Albany finished fourth in the OCC-Ohio behind Olentangy (6-0), Olentangy Liberty (5-1) and Olentangy Orange (4-2) and ahead of Gahanna (1-5), Hilliard Bradley (1-5) and Darby (1-5). The Eagles earned the third seed in the regional tournament and defeated Wooster 8-4 in a first-round home game May 24 before upsetting second-seeded and host Watterson 8-7 in overtime in a regional semifinal May 29.
In the regional final June 1, New Albany trailed top-seeded and host DeSales 6-2 in the second half and tied the game in the fourth quarter but lost 8-7. Sophomore attacker Cooper Pewitt scored a game-high three goals and finished with 18 goals and 11 assists.
Conley, Zuk and midfielder Matt Puleri (17 goals, 5 assists) were the only seniors.
Conley was first-team all-league and second-team all-region. Collins, Dunn, Greco and junior midfielder Drew Little were second-team all-league, and Zuk was honorable mention.
Dunn, Greco and Semertsidis were second-team all-region, and Little and Zuk were honorable mention.
Boys tennis coach hopes ceiling is high
The boys tennis team loses two seniors, including state qualifier Rathnakishore Giri, but expects to return the crux of a lineup that went 14-4 overall, was perfect in OCC-Capital play and was a win away from the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I state team tournament.
Sophomores Nick Blair and Alex Kobelt went 1-1 in doubles in the Division I state tournament May 31 and June 1, and Giri lost to eventual state champion Jacob Dunbar of Lodi Cloverleaf 6-1, 6-0.
New Albany lost to eventual OTCA state champion Upper Arlington 3-0 in a district final May 28.
"The guys weren't happy because they fell short of what they set out to do," first-year coach Marc Thomas said. "They were frustrated, but I am proud of them. We have a ton of young guys coming back, and their careers are a long way from over."
The Eagles were 7-0 in the OCC-Capital and earned the maximum 82 points, followed by Olentangy (55, 6-1), Orange (53, 5-2), Big Walnut (35, 3-4), Delaware (35, 3-4), Watkins Memorial (35, 3-4), Mount Vernon (16, 1-6) and Franklin Heights (2, 0-7). In the league tournament May 11 at Olentangy, sophomore C.J. Cash and Kobelt won the first and second singles titles, respectively, and Giri won third singles. Senior Jacob Teich and Blair won first doubles and freshmen Harrison Lippy and Sam Malik won second doubles.
The Eagles advanced all seven players from a sectional tournament May 16 and 18 at Pickerington Central. Giri defeated freshman Noah Fox 6-2, 6-0 in a singles semifinal - the only two points Giri allowed at sectional - before winning the title when Groveport's Forest Baldwin retired in the first set. In the doubles final, Blair and Kobelt defeated Cash and Teich 6-3, 6-2.
Lippy, who won a challenge match over junior Durga Samanthula to participate in the postseason, finished fourth in singles.
Giri was fourth at district May 24 and 25 at Hilliard Davidson, losing to Reynoldsburg's Cameron Raglin 6-2, 6-2 in the third-place match. Kobelt and Blair went 3-1, defeating Dublin Jerome's Adam Seitz and Kent Seitz 6-4, 6-3 in the third-place match.
Fox and Lippy each went 0-1, as did Cash and Teich.
"Obviously, it was a great season," Thomas said. "We only lost to the best players. When you sign up to play at New Albany, you're going to get stiff tests. We consistently got better the whole season."