At the beginning of the season, the Olentangy Orange High School girls lacrosse team appeared to have all the pieces in place to have a strong offense.

At the beginning of the season, the Olentangy Orange High School girls lacrosse team appeared to have all the pieces in place to have a strong offense.

The Pioneers opened with a 20-14 win over Westerville South on March 29 and beat Hilliard Bradley 18-14 on March 31.

Then, one by one, Orange lost key players in its attack.

Junior midfielder Lindsay Spragg tore the ACL in her left knee and might miss the rest of the season. Senior midfielder Hana Abu-Kwiek sustained a severe ankle sprain in a 16-14 loss to Pickerington North on April 15.

A day later, senior Taylor Shifflet collided with senior defender Whitney Draper during the Hannigan-Galipault Tournament at Thomas Worthington. Shifflet bruised muscles in her neck and back and was taken by ambulance, as a precaution, to Nationwide Children's Hospital. Draper sustained a minor foot injury. Both are expected to return this season.

"I've never had anything like this," coach Jaime Miller said. "They were all just freak things."

Younger players have been called on to fill in, and Miller has found herself substituting players during games more frequently.

"It's been kind of a trial by fire for these girls, but there have been a lot of coachable moments," Miller said. "I'm really excited for the younger players. They've been putting in the time and now we're going to see what they can do."

•After starting the season with a 17-10 loss to Columbus School for Girls on March 29, Olentangy has won seven consecutive games going into its contest against Hilliard Davidson on Thursday, April 28.

"It's been a really great start," said first-year coach Chelsea Huguenard, whose team already has won more games than it did last year (6-9) or in 2009 (6-7). "We've been working a lot on our defense and slowing the ball down offensively. It seems like everyone is attacking and playing defense."

Olentangy has averaged 13.8 goals a game by spreading out the scoring. Fourteen players have scored goals this season.

"We're no longer having those one-and-done possessions with the ball," Huguenard said. "We're moving the ball around and looking for those little gaps in the defense.

"We don't have one person who is going to average five goals a game. We're counting on every single person."

•Liberty coach Abby Stierman said a 15-7 win over Hilliard Darby on April 7 convinced the Patriots that they could be a strong team this year.

"That game showed the girls they're going to be able to win this year," Stierman said. "We did a nice job of shutting them down in the last eight minutes of the game. I believe that's where we came together."

Last year, the Patriots were 1-7 in games decided by two goals or fewer. Entering this week, Liberty was 2-1-1 in those games.

Stierman said the reason for the improvement was the team's ability to spread out its offensive production.

Through five games, Eileen Barrett was the team's leading scorer with 20 goals, including five against Darby. Alexis Ecker had 13 goals and Brooke Chambers had 12.

The Patriots will be tested with games at Westerville South on Friday, April 29, against Orange on Tuesday, May 3, at home and at Columbus School for Girls on May 5.

Liberty has never beaten South or CSG in Stierman's four years as coach.

"The girls are really motivated to play those teams," Stierman said. "I've been impressed with the endurance of this team. We worked hard in the offseason. We're really young, but we work well together."