As evidenced by its 10-5 loss to Wellington on May 19 in a Division II regional semifinal, the Olentangy Liberty High School girls lacrosse team got better as the season progressed. Just more than six weeks earlier, the Jaguars had blasted the Patriots 13-0 in a regular-season game April 4.
As evidenced by its 10-5 loss to Wellington on May 19 in a Division II regional semifinal, the Olentangy Liberty High School girls lacrosse team got better as the season progressed.
Just more than six weeks earlier, the Jaguars had blasted the Patriots 13-0 in a regular-season game April 4.
"We played a much better game than we did the first time we played them," said Wellington coach Adam Stewart, whose team lost to New Albany 13-6 in the regional final May 22. "Liberty has improved a lot since that second game of the season."
The Patriots were outscored 40-12 in their first three games — also losing to Columbus School for Girls 15-10 on April 1 and Dublin Coffman 12-2 on April 8 — but won 10 of their next 13 and finished 10-7 overall. They went
3-2 in the OCC-Ohio Division to place third behind New Albany (5-0) and Olentangy (4-1) and ahead of Westerville North (2-3), Westerville South (1-4) and Westerville Central (0-5).
"The thing that stands out about this season is the way we came together as a team," first-year coach Abby Stierman said.
"We started off slowly. After an 0-3 start, finishing 10-7 shows that we really came together. All of the girls believed in each other."
Liberty lost eight graduates from a team that finished 7-11-1 last year and perhaps was a little rusty early. It didn't help that snow covered the field for most of the preseason.
"It was definitely a bumpy start, but we picked it up in the middle of the
season and we definitely had a really good season," said senior goalie Liz Searfos, who had 18 saves in the regional semifinal. "We had those rough three games at the beginning of the season.
We had a very snowy start to the season. I don't think we got outside very often.
"We had some pretty tough teams to start out the season with. About the middle of the year, we decided that we wanted to win. And we did."
Searfos is joined in the senior class by midfielder Sydney Goodwill (43 goals, 10 assists), attacker Jordan Martin and defenders Megan Chambers (11 goals, 3 assists) and Andrea Mielke. Searfos (296 saves, .688 save percentage) and Goodwill were first-team all-region and Chambers received honorable mention.
"It's a tough group to lose," Stierman said. "(Searfos) was just phenomenal. That's going to be a key loss for us. Sydney and Megan have been a tremendous help with our transition and winning the draw."
Searfos will continue her career at Ohio Wesleyan.
"I'm going to play lacrosse next year so I will still have the game to look forward to, but I will never have this group of girls to work with again," she said.
Junior Melissa Hrivnak (33 goals, 5 assists), sophomore Kirstin Bennehoof (13 goals, 4 assists) and freshman Brooke Chambers should return to the attack. Junior Jessie Wright (18 goals, 8 assists), sophomores Alex Gorrell and Stephanie Jones and freshman Heidi Nice are expect back in the midfield. Maggie Schultz is expected to vie for Searfos' goalie position and junior Candice McKay and sophomores Marissa Briggs, Madison Mullen and Rachel Berridge should return defensively.
Wright, McKay, Jones, Hrivnak and Bennehoof were honorable mention all-region.
"(Assistant Meghan Bennehoof) and I are going to sit down and look for ways to start off quicker next year," Stierman said. "This year it took us about four games to really get into it. We are looking at things to do in the offseason and ways to improve our stick skills. We want to work on the basics, passing and catching, to start the season the way we
were playing at the end of this one."