With eight seniors, including five college recruits, in her starting lineup, Watterson High School softball coach Tracey Cultice believes her team has the talent and experience needed to win CCL and district championships.
The Eagles, who finished 13-9 overall last year, opened April 2 with a 10-3 win over Olentangy and defeated Groveport 9-0 on April 4 before losing to Licking Valley 8-5 and Duncan Falls Philo 3-2 on April 6.
Watterson returns seven starters in seniors Katey Bell (CF), Kayla Cook (P/2B), Audrey Manahan (C), Alexis Mayle (1B/2B), Mary Murray (LF) and Lily Sisamuth (3B/SS) and sophomore Katie Manahan (1B/3B).
Mayle, who batted .375 with a team-high six home runs last season, and Manahan have committed to Wright State and Ashland, respectively. According to Cultice, Sisamuth is being recruited by Marietta and Otterbein and Cook had drawn interest from colleges but has opted to play basketball at Ohio Dominican.
Also starting are senior Maddie Marotti (SS), a move-in from Florida who has committed to Notre Dame, and senior Emily Cloud (RF).
"This is the most college-bound athletes we've had and this is our biggest senior class since my senior year at Watterson back in 1997," said Cultice, who is in her second season leading the program. "We have the talent and experience to win championships, so we just need to keep working together as a team. We've had good leadership and great team chemistry so far, but we'll need to keep that up through the entire season to get to where we want to go."
Also vying for playing time are junior Erin Farmwald (C), sophomores Maria Simmonds (OF) and Avery Wakefield (OF) and freshman Ashley Competti (P).
"We have a very experienced group with eight senior starters and they seem to be clicking," Cultice said. "We have a lot of good individual players, so we just need to make sure they work together so we can be a good team."
Last season, Watterson went 1-5 in the CCL to tie Ready for third, behind DeSales (6-0) and Hartley (4-2).
The Eagles, who are seeking their first district title, opened Division I district tournament a year ago with a 17-1 win over Marion-Franklin before losing to 10th-seeded Olentangy Liberty 7-0 in the second round.
"Every team in the CCL is solid, so we've got to play well against all of them," Cultice said. "Winning district is always something we're shooting for. We've been close many times in the past and hopefully our experience and chemistry will make a difference and allow us to win it this year."
Girls lacrosse team loaded with experience
The girls lacrosse team has returned nine starters from last season, when it finished 10-5-1 overall and placed fifth in the Central Independent League.
Back are seniors Lydia DeVault-Arn (attacker), Jacqueline Conte (midfielder), Emily Engert (attacker), Victoria Farhat (goalkeeper), Allyson Hayden (defender), Ellie McGraw (defender) and Hanna Wood (defender), junior Mackenzie James (attacker) and sophomore Ellie Wood (midfielder).
Last season, Engert (40 goals, 32 assists), James (62 goals, 15 assists) and Ellie Wood (21 goals, 11 assists) all were named first-team all-league. DeVault-Arn (21 goals, 28 assists) and Farhat (63 saves, .521 save percentage) also were key contributors a year ago.
Hayden, who is a team captain, is out indefinitely as she recovers from injuries sustained from being struck by a car.
Sophomore Amy Buening, who was slated to be a starting midfielder, is expected to miss most, if not all, of the season with a knee injury, and junior Leah Delp and senior Stephanie Polletta, who also were expected to start in the midfield, chose to play field hockey this spring.
Polletta had 29 goals and 13 assists last season.
"I was expecting this season to be a cakewalk, but we'll really miss the four girls we lost," said third-year coach Jack Conte, whose team opened April 9 with a league game against Wellington. "We've still got a great starting lineup. We just don't have a lot of depth behind our starters. Mackenzie James and Ellie Wood are as good of lacrosse players as anyone in the state, and Victoria Farhat is a four-year starter in goal who is really sharp."
Also on the team are seniors Kendel Fiorita (defender), Emily Green (midfielder) and Gabbi Speakman (defender), juniors Grace Heutel (defender), Rachel Limes (midfielder), Marissa Melaragno (midfielder) and Grace Traini (midfielder) and sophomores Taylor Brown (midfielder), Jennifer Buening (attacker), Molly Cleary (midfielder), Gina DePalma (attacker), Kelsey Eldred (goalkeeper), Angela Elmo (defender), Elizabeth Frecker (midfielder), Natalie Hansel (midfielder), Julia Kuhn (attacker), Margret McGowan (midfielder/goalie) and Juliana Passino (attacker).
Last season, Watterson went 3-3-1 in the CIL to finish behind Columbus Academy (7-0), Bexley (5-2), Hartley (4-2-1) and Columbus School for Girls (4-3) and ahead of DeSales (2-5), Granville (1-6) and Wellington (1-6).
The Eagles ended last season with a 15-10 loss to Cincinnati Ursuline in their Division I South/Central Region tournament opener.
"We expect ourselves to have as good of a season as we had last year and to do better in the (postseason) tournament," coach Conte said. "We just need to avoid any further injuries and keep getting better."