The Olentangy Orange High School boys lacrosse team will rely on a defensive unit that returns intact from last season.
Back on defense are seniors Mike Forbes and Cole Gabalis (second-team all-OCC-Ohio Division) and juniors Jake Lewis (honorable mention all-league), Robert McHale (goalkeeper), Tony Menzo and Drake Straty.
Forbes, Gabalis, Menzo and senior midfielder Jarrod Gilliam are captains.
"Our strength will be on defense, where we return everyone from last year's team," second-year coach Sean McGinnis said. "Our defense is very athletic and can get up and down the field. They work very well as a unit."
The Pioneers finished 7-9 overall a year ago after losing to Sylvania Southview 8-7 in the first round of the Division I Northwest Region tournament. They defeated Dublin Scioto 8-7 in a play-in game.
Orange was seventh (0-6) in the OCC-Ohio, behind co-champions Olentangy and New Albany (5-1), Olentangy Liberty and Gahanna (4-2), Hilliard Bradley (2-4) and Hilliard Darby (1-5).
Junior attacker Eddy Arnold (26 goals, 13 assists) was the team's top scorer last season.
"Our attack will be strong this year with Eddy Arnold and (junior) Brandon Ritter because both work off each other very well," said McGinnis, whose team opens Monday, April 1, at last year's Division I state runner-up, Dublin Jerome, before beginning league play Wednesday, April 3, at home against Bradley. "(Junior) Alex Menzo and Jarrod Gilliam will lead the midfield this year by starting our transition game and getting the ball to the offensive end."
The roster also includes seniors Bryce Meade (defender) and Evan Roehll (midfielder), juniors Michael Anderson (midfielder), Taylor Barr (defender), Joey Kimball (midfielder), Coleman Metzger (defender), Aston Onesko (midfielder), Andrew Puera (midfielder), Michael Secrist (midfielder) and Anthony Smith (midfielder), sophomores Nick Buening (midfielder), Sam Button (attacker), Carson Miller (midfielder) and Brett Schutte (midfielder) and freshmen Josh Forrester (attacker), Tyler Lichter (midfielder), Adam Rieger (midfielder) and Michael Trombetti (goalie).
"Our offense is still a little young, so right now we are focusing on working together as a six-man offensive unit," McGinnis said. "We need our returning players to help the younger players get used to our offense and playing varsity lacrosse."
Peterson to lead Olentangy program
Olentangy has a new coach in Zach Peterson, who was an assistant at Jerome the past five seasons.
He replaced Mike Kinney, who led the Braves for one season. Olentangy finished 14-5 overall, its best record since going 15-3 in 2008.
In the Division I Northwest Region tournament, Olentangy lost to Liberty 10-9 in the first round. The Braves tied New Albany for first (5-1) in the OCC-Ohio.
"The goal for each of our lacrosse players is to embody a 'short memory,' " said Peterson, whose team opens Wednesday, April 3, at New Albany. "No matter how bitter or sweet, nothing defines us but consistency. From day one, I have challenged the players to press themselves towards confident humility."
Senior attacker Mitchell Newell (49 goals, 16 assists), senior attacker Eric Milliron (31, 20), senior midfielder Austin Lilly (31, 22) and senior attacker Lukas Smith (20, 3) are the top returning scorers. Newell, who will play at Queens (N.Y.) College, and senior defender Tate Stover, an Ohio State signee, were first-team all-league last season, and Milliron was honorable mention.
Rounding out the 14-player senior class are Justin Henderson (midfielder), David Ketter (midfielder), Blaine Koch (midfielder), Travis Massey (midfielder), Kyle Margolies (defender), Tyler Olenick (defender), Jeff Simmons (attacker), Conner Sunkle (midfielder) and Jake Temple (attacker).
"The primary strength of our team is in the unity of our senior class," Peterson said. "Our seniors are dedicated and selfless individuals, whose priority is the success of the team."
Other players are juniors Josh Baumbach (midfielder), Austin Bean (defender), Jonah Gutentag (defender), Cole Palmby (goalie) and Zachary Potter (midfielder), sophomores Ryan Dop (goalie), Tanner Held (defender), Cliff Kigar (attack) and Caelan Laughlin (midfielder) and freshman Zach Whitenack (defender).
Former Davidson coach takes over at Liberty
Liberty has a new coach in Jason Godwin, who led the Hilliard Davidson boys program for five seasons and replaced two-year coach Eric O'Brien.
Last season, Liberty finished 11-9 after losing to Medina 12-7 in the second round of the Division I Northwest Region tournament. The Patriots defeated Whitehouse Anthony Wayne 19-3 in a play-in game before beating Olentangy.
Liberty opened March 25 with a 12-8 loss at Hudson. The Patriots begin league play Wednesday, April 3, against visiting Darby.
"I became interested in Liberty because of all the positive comments about not just the high school program but all the way down to the youth level," said Godwin, who was 55-42 at Davidson, including 8-10 last season and 19-3 in 2010. "The number of kids participating in lacrosse in Olentangy is staggering compared to any other area. The opportunity to coach this growing population was very inviting."
Liberty tied Gahanna for third (4-2) in the OCC-Ohio last season.
The Patriots return senior midfielders Jake Rakich and Shane Rakich. Shane had 10 goals and nine assists last year and was second-team all-league, and Jake was honorable mention all-league.
Goalie Tom Papach is the program's other senior.
"There seems to be quite a few returning letterwinners coming back, but we will only have three seniors," Godwin said. "We will be very young this year with the sophomores and juniors competing for starting roles."
Also back from last season are juniors Patrick Bruck (attacker), Conner Bull (midfielder), Matt Kessler (midfielder) and Ross Pettitt (midfielder) and sophomores Patrick Barboza (defender), Jackson Druckenbroad (defender), Nick Durtschi (midfielder), Drew Gouhin (attacker), Matt Helton (defender) and Jake Worrell (defender).
Rounding out the roster are juniors Cole Bumpass (attacker), Daryian Davies (defender), Mitchell Hughes (attacker), Mitchell Lagrou (midfielder), Jack Murphy (attacker), Alex Rakich (midfielder), Brendan Ryan (attacker), Cameron Senhouser (defender) and Kyle Wagner (defender) and sophomores Matthew Bobbit (attacker), Sam Chickerella (midfielder), Ryan Gratz (midfielder), Mario Innacito (goalie), Ford Matthews (midfielder) and Sean Murphy (goalie).
"I feel we are deep at all our positions with great stick skills (and) discipline, and our lacrosse IQ continues to grow," Godwin said.