The Olentangy Orange High School boys lacrosse team relied last season on the offense provided by attacker Cody Holbrook and midfielder Kyle Henderson.

The Olentangy Orange High School boys lacrosse team relied last season on the offense provided by attacker Cody Holbrook and midfielder Kyle Henderson.

Holbrook had 32 goals and 14 assists, and Henderson had 17 goals and four assists.

Coach Sean Hughes said the Pioneers' fortunes this season might be determined by how well they replace those two 2010 graduates.

"I don't want to use the word 'rebuilding,' but our offense is definitely a work in progress," said Hughes, whose team finished 6-8 overall last season after losing to Granville 15-7 in the first round of the Division II Central regional tournament.

Juniors Mitchell Deakins (13 goals, 2 assists), Dar Faroughi, Taylor Hardy and Blake Holbrook return as attackers. Seniors Dylan Frim and Alex Titus (8 goals, 5 assists) and junior Dan Bull (14 goals) will anchor the midfield.

The Pioneers also have added junior Alec Haugh and senior Ryan Haugh, who transferred from Westerville South.

"We welcomed them with open arms," Hughes said. "They've played at the varsity level and are going to help us with our depth."

Defensively, junior Cody Carroll is back at goalkeeper. He will be supported by sophomore Cole Gabalis and junior Nick Murley as long-stick midfielders, and on defense by seniors Kevin Teets and Jacob Vacheresse, junior Jon Peddicord and sophomore Mike Forbes.

"The experience that we have coming back should help us out a lot," said Hughes, who is in his second season. "Those guys have really increased their level of play."

That could help the Pioneers improve their standing in the OCC-Ohio Division. Orange tied Gahanna for fourth last year at 2-4, behind New Albany (6-0), Olentangy Liberty (5-1) and Olentangy (4-2) and ahead of Hilliard Bradley (1-5) and Hilliard Darby (1-5).

"Liberty is probably the top contender this year. Based on what I've heard, we're probably in the middle of the pack right now," Hughes said. "The make-or-break factor for us is going to be getting the kids to buy into our offensive and defensive schemes."

Orange was scheduled to open the season March 30 at Bradley after the original opener, March 25 against Westerville North, was postponed.

•First-year coach Mike Kinney said the strength of Olentangy this season is going to be its defense.

The Braves are off to a 2-1 start. During their spring break trip to Tennessee, they beat Cincinnati Sycamore 9-4 on March 22 and Nashville (Tenn.) University School 7-3 on March 24 and lost to Montgomery Bell Academy of Nashville 15-6 on March 23.

"The defense has been living up to expectation," Kinney said. "We've been relentless on ball pressure, communicating very well and been very physical. We have a couple of kids who have stepped up and are working well under pressure."

Last year, Olentangy gave up 8.4 goals a game and was 2-8 when it allowed 10 or more goals. The Braves finished 8-10 overall with a 12-6 loss to New Albany in the first round of the Division II Central regional tournament.

Senior Kyle Moses, junior Jacob Eichler and sophomore Tate Stover anchor the defense, and senior Quinn Freeman will be the long-stick midfielder. Junior Nick Kane, who has 38 saves in the first three games, takes over in goal for 2010 graduate Zack Wilson.

"They've shown a lot of good footwork and speed," said Kinney, who replaced Greg Frangos as coach. "We've got a lot of big, strong, fast kids with good stick skills. They're not afraid to go after somebody."

The Braves are young in the midfield, led by junior Josh Stein and sophomores Austin Lilly and Roman Zingarelli. Junior Andrew Stegmann, who scored 42 goals last year, anchors the attack with sophomores Eric Milliron, Mitch Newell and Luke Smith.

"Offensively, we're young, but we're getting better. We have a new system and it's going to take some time until they are fully comfortable with it," Kinney said. "We have to be patient with the ball. Last year they pushed the ball, and we're still going to do that at times, but we want to do it at the right times. We're not going to try to force it in there."

•Returning eight of its top nine scorers from a team that averaged 13.9 goals a game last season, Liberty should have no trouble on offense.

Second-year coach Eric O'Brien said his team has spent a lot of time trying to slow down.

"Last year, we were a strong transition team," said O'Brien, whose squad finished 12-7 overall after losing to Hilliard Davidson 17-15 in the first round of the Division I Central regional tournament. "With that being said, we have to able to slow down and play a half-field game.

"We've been working hard on taking care of the ball and perimeter passing so we can break down a defense."

Liberty opened with a 19-5 win over Watterson on March 28.

The Patriots will mix seniors Taylor Hudson (26 goals, 7 assists), Patrick Melick (23 goals, 16 assists), Jimmy Ruska (63 goals, 22 assists) and Dave Southwick (13 goals, 10 assists) with junior Corey Menninger and freshmen Patrick Bruck and Tucker Sexton on the attack.

The midfield lost Jason Binkley (42 goals, 24 assists), the OCC-Ohio Player of the Year, to graduation. Seniors Jimmy Chickerella (21 goals, 13 assists) and Grant Woods (15 goals, 8 assists) and juniors Austin Bull (18 goals, 7 assists) and Zach Lando (9 goals, 8 assists) lead the midfield, with seniors Tyler Mosley and Tyler Specht and sophomores Jake Rakich and Shane Rakich expected to make contributions. Specht played as a freshman and sophomore but skipped last year.

The Patriots lost five players from their defense to graduation, but O'Brien believes he has a lot of talent returning in seniors Andrew Gainor and Ben Lando, juniors Austin Fenstermaker, Tyler Hartwell, Zach Hedrick, Peter Leonetti, John McKay, Phil Osolinski and Kyle Todd and freshman Daryian Davies. Ben Lando has committed to Queens University, a Division II program in Charlotte, N.C.

Senior Evan Finley and sophomores Tom Rapach and Tyler Stark are competing to fill the goalkeeper spot vacated by Evan Deacon.