Mandy Cox spent time during her first season as Beechcroft High School softball coach last spring teaching the value of being a team player and having a positive attitude.
She believed it was essential groundwork, particularly considering how many underclassmen she had.
Now with 29 players in the program -- and with no seniors -- this season is about improving on the field.
The Cougars, who return the junior battery of Starlah Germany (C) and Mary Stewart (P), opened with a 16-2 win over City League-North Division-foe Linden-McKinley on April 8.
Beechcroft was leading Northland 8-5 in the fifth inning of a league game April 10 when play was halted because of bad weather, and the Cougars' league game April 12 against Centennial was postponed.
"I feel like we set up a lot of the expectations that they needed to have last year and we have more of a family feel this year," Cox said. "The expectations have been set and they are meeting them. When you come out there, you have to represent yourself in a certain way, like having respect for each other being team players and that they work hard."
Beechcroft went 7-10 overall and 6-8 in the City-North last season. Whetstone won the league at 14-0, Centennial was 12-2, Brookhaven went 9-5 and Northland was 8-6.
Also back for the Cougars are junior Melvon Cannady, who has moved from center field to first base, junior Dale'Lyn Featherstone (SS) and sophomores Te'a Wade (2B/OF) and Aariana Holmes (3B).
Other key players include juniors Zaya Wallace (OF) and Janea Walburg (OF), sophomores Ciearra Shuford (P/OF), Jasmin Goforth (OF) and Stephanie Ibarra (OF) and freshman Remii Wilcox (utility).
Beechcroft opened the Division II district tournament last season with a 10-0 loss to Licking Heights in the first round.
'Cats softball team has strong offense
With eight seniors leading the way last season, the Brookhaven softball team went 13-8 overall and placed third in the City-North.
Considering the only key players back from that team are seniors Sidney Brice (OF), Senetria Cain (P), Kylie Matthews (1B/P) and Kristina Tweedy (SS), coach Chuck Andrick is hoping the Bearcats aren't in for a rough season.
"I knew we were going to be down a little this year, so I tried to schedule some winnable games," said Andrick, who is in his ninth season. "My top four or five girls in the lineup can put the bat on the ball. Kylie and Kristina have been hitting some bombs."
Brookhaven opened with losses to Wellington (26-2 on April 3) and Eastmoor Academy (14-3 on April 4) but beat Northland 22-19 on April 8 in its City-North opener.
On April 10 and 12, the Bearcats' games against Columbus East and Whetstone were postponed because of bad weather.
The Bearcats, who fell to Bexley 19-0 in the first round of the Division II district tournament last season, lost a senior class that included Unique Dixon, Celina Fontes, Ashanna Jaycocks, Chelsea Matthews and Rachel Montgomery.
Cougars out to build on strong tennis year
The Beechcroft boys tennis team followed a season in which it went 6-6 in the league by falling just short of advancing to the City championship match last spring.
Back to help the Cougars as they try to build on a season in which they went 10-2 to tie Centennial and Whetstone for second behind Columbus West (12-0) are four players who played junior varsity or varsity last season.
"We're rebuilding, but I think we're going to win some matches," said Daphne Hess, who is in her fourth season as coach. "I promise fun, but I don't necessarily promise wins. We've got four players who played a lot of either j.v. or varsity last year that have really stepped up."
Junior Jason Rojas has moved from third singles to first singles. Sophomore Daniel Bishoff played first singles on j.v. last year and now is at second singles. Sophomore Mario Lopez-Gomez has moved from second doubles to third singles.
Junior John Stone and freshman Branden Matney are at first doubles and sophomores Victor Guerrero and Ibrahim Sesay are at second doubles.
Also looking to contribute are sophomores Robert Cephas and Spencer Stewart.
Beechcroft opened by losing 5-0 to Whetstone on April 8 but beat Briggs 5-0 on April 10 and Northland 4-1 on April 12.
Beechcroft improved from 8-8 in 2011 to 12-2 overall last season.
Whetstone was awarded a berth in the City final against West because of a pair of tiebreakers. Because Centennial had been in the league final more recently, the Stars automatically lost tiebreakers to both Whetstone and Beechcroft.
Whetstone then won the tiebreaker over Beechcroft because it had beaten the Cougars 3-2.
Winning first-round matches in the Division I sectional at Pickerington Central were Lopez-Gomez and the doubles teams of 2012 graduates Joseph Pleasant and David Beyene and Josh Pleasant and Fred Darko. Pleasant and Darko also won their second sectional match before falling to Dublin Jerome's Jared Judson and Frank Kuo 6-2, 6-0 in a quarterfinal.
Northland tennis team senior-laden
Northland boys tennis coach Allen Jarrett is enjoying what he expects to be his final season.
Jarrett, who coached the Vikings to the 2011 City championship for their first title since 1996, is a teacher and the girls basketball coach at Mifflin.
He hopes to coach other sports at Mifflin in the future.
"I love it, but it's time for me to leave Northland," said Jarrett, who is in his ninth year coaching both the boys and girls tennis teams at the school. "I love these guys. They're hardworking guys, reliable and responsible. For the last two years, this group has been a dream."
Senior Mike Allen, who split time between singles and doubles last season, is playing first singles. Senior Viet Nguyen has moved up from third singles to second singles, and senior Martine Montero is at third singles.
Expected to play doubles are seniors Robert Bedard, Abdul Mohamud, Brian Pena, Dinh Phung, Vinh Phung and Armani Towns.
Northland opened April 12 by losing to Beechcroft 4-1.
Last season, the Vikings went 4-7 in the City and had no players advance to the district tournament from the Division I sectional at Hilliard Davidson.