Throughout the course of a recent three-minute interview, Jackson Beckman's voice slowly regenerated from raspy to steady.
Beckman, a junior goalkeeper for the New Albany High School boys lacrosse team, had just finished rebuffing shot after shot thanks to quick reflexes and a wide range of motion.
Officially, Beckman had six saves in a 10-7 win over visiting Hilliard Darby in an OCC-Ohio Division game April 9, but that number didn't matter much to coach Chris Brown.
Brown embraces Beckman's attitude of making the most out of every minute.
In Beckman's case, he simply wants to keep his job even after senior goalie and position incumbent Doug Collins returns from a broken hand, possibly this week.
"I play like it's my spot to lose, and I don't want to give it up," Beckman said. "(Having) quick hands is what I've always been good at, and I'm always working on my leadership, as maybe you can tell by my voice. It's a big step up from j.v. to varsity, obviously. It's been a big thing for me to work on and a huge honor to work with these guys on varsity for the first time."
After losing its opener 8-4 to Thomas Worthington on March 26, New Albany won five consecutive games. The Eagles were 5-2 overall entering an April 14 home game against Olentangy Liberty.
"We seem to be grasping things and playing with a lot of heart and passion," Brown said. "The guys are focused. They know what we have the potential to do if we play well for long stretches at a time."
Beckman pointed to Trevor Lambert, James Parr and Nick Wolff as leaders of the defense, which allowed an average of 6.4 goals through seven games. In turn, Brown and Lambert lauded Beckman's ability to direct his unit during play.
"Anytime they can hold a team to seven goals or less, they should win," Brown said.
"His voice is still echoing in my ears," Lambert said of Beckman.
"I can always rely on him. He always helps us out with communication."
Leading scorer Ryan Dunn hurt his left knee late against Darby, and Brown was hoping that would not be an ongoing issue. Dunn had 19 goals through five games, including five against Darby before he was hurt with 4 minutes, 12 seconds left.
"We have a lot of other guys capable of scoring, too," Brown said. "We've had a lot of different players contribute goals. Robby (Serafin) had five goals (in a 17-3 win over Dublin Coffman on April 5). (Michael) Brendle had three one game."
Brendle, a sophomore who played at DeSales last year, had the winning goal in the second overtime April 11 as New Albany beat Watterson 8-7.
New Albany's win streak was snapped the next night with an 11-6 loss at Westerville Central.
Through five games, Cooper Pewitt had nine goals and Serafin had six.
New Albany is seeking its first league championship since 2012, when it tied Olentangy atop the OCC-Ohio with a 5-1 league record.
"They've exceeded my expectations at times, and they haven't lived up to them at other times," Brown said. "But what we strive for is to play a full 48 minutes. We've done a good job at times playing for a quarter or two, but we have a long way to go to be up to par."
Softball team thriving in pressure situations
When softball coach Patrick Finn talks about his team picking up where it left off last year, he doesn't necessarily mean record-wise.
Finn has been pleased with the Eagles' instincts and performance in pressure situations through the season's first two weeks. New Albany was 5-2 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Capital before visiting Olentangy on April 14.
"We talk about picking up where we left off last year, and we can tell now that we're mentally stronger," Finn said. "We're still growing. We're not perfect. In our game against (Olentangy) Orange (a 2-1 win April 8), Amber Mullen had a single that scored Kaitlyn Gliha and Gliha slid into home behind the catcher with her hand, rather than with her feet.
"It's just the knowledge what to do in situations like that that I'm seeing more from with this team."
Mullen's single came in the seventh inning and was only the fourth hit against Orange's Jenn Kurelic.
"I reminded the girls that more often than not that's the kind of game we're going to have in the OCC-Capital," Finn said. "I like how we've been tested early. I want to see that this team can withstand a lot of situations."
New Albany capped the week by sweeping two games April 12 at Watterson, defeating the host Eagles 10-1 and edging Division III power North Union 4-3 in eight innings. Abbie Skowron had the game-winning single against North Union, and Gliha had three solo home runs on the day -- two against Watterson. Sydney Warriner had 18 strikeouts against Watterson.
Gliha was batting a team-best .429 entering the week, just ahead of Skowron (.412), Ashton Shearer (.400) and Jamie Sevenish (.385). Warriner had 61 strikeouts, 20 walks and a 0.95 ERA.
Girls lacrosse team starts fast
The girls lacrosse team won its first three games, two by 10 or more goals.
New Albany defeated DeSales 9-8 on April 5, Pickerington North 13-2 on April 8 and Orange 12-2 on April 10 in its OCC-Capital opener. The Eagles were 3-0 overall before visiting Liberty on April 15.
Through three games, Liza Hernandez had a team-high nine goals. Monnett Hamilton had eight and Chaney Clapham had six.
Grace Anthony and Kathleen Schell have shared time in goal.
New Albany, which won the Division II state championship last year but now is in Division I, will play host to both of last year's Division I state finalists within the next two weeks.
The Eagles play runner-up Cincinnati Sycamore on Monday, April 21, and defending state champion Upper Arlington on April 29.