Jeff Simmons and his teammates on the Olentangy High School boys lacrosse team had been waiting a long time to play Liberty.
The Braves lost to the Patriots 10-9 last May in the first round of the postseason. That memory was a driving force in Olentangy's 5-4 victory April 26 in an OCC-Ohio Division game.
"It's a big win for us, and Liberty is always a tough game," said Simmons, a senior attacker who scored once against the visiting Patriots. "They beat us in the first round of the tournament last season and we really wanted to win this one."
The last three meetings between the teams have been by decided by one goal. The Braves had defeated Liberty 12-11 only 10 days before their tournament loss.
"I expected a close game," said Olentangy coach Zach Peterson, whose team was 10-1 overall and 5-0 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Hilliard Darby on May 1. "Liberty is well-coached and has a lot of talent. I didn't know whether it would be a high-scoring game or low-scoring, but I knew it would be close."
The Patriots were 5-5 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Hilliard Bradley on May 1.
"I'm not really surprised that it was a defensive battle because we both play good defense," Liberty coach Jason Godwin said. "We have a pretty good defense, but we're a work in progress offensively."
Senior attacker Mitchell Newell had two goals for Olentangy, with Simmons, senior attacker Lukas Smith and senior attacker Jake Temple all scoring once.
"They had a long-stick defender on me instead of a short-stick," said Simmons, whose team also defeated Sylvania Southview 5-4 on April 27. "It was difficult to create offense and they were getting early slides for double-teams."
Junior attacker Mitchell Hughes had two goals for Liberty, and junior midfielder Conner Bull and junior attacker Brendan Ryan both scored one.
"The guys are getting comfortable with our system and we try to give them the opportunity to shine and it's catching on," Godwin said. "That will come."
Goalkeepers Cole Palmby of Olentangy and Sean Murphy of Liberty both had seven saves.
"They run a defensive system that is very similar to ours," Peterson said. "The teams are designed very similarly. I have to give a lot of credit to the play in goal. They made several saves on the doorstep. Big-time players step up in big games."
The Braves also handed St. Charles its first loss in seven games with a 10-6 win April 23. Freshman attacker Cliff Kigar scored three times and senior midfielder Austin Lilly, Simmons and Temple all scored twice. Freshman midfielder Caelan Laughlin scored the other goal and Palmby had 13 saves.
"After (beating Liberty) our main goal is to go out and get as far in the tournament as we can," Simmons said. "We know we have to continue to work hard and get ready for the postseason."
Liberty girls team outscores Orange
The Liberty girls team defeated Orange 18-12 on April 25, improving to 8-1 overall and 4-0 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Olentangy on April 30.
Sophomore attacker Dani Bursinger scored five goals, sophomore attacker Kelley Fitzgerald scored four and both junior midfielder Erin Hedrick and sophomore attacker Megan Maitino scored three times. Junior midfielder Gabby Perez, sophomore attacker Katie Gallagher and sophomore attacker Katie Wetterauer-Jackson all had one goal and sophomore goalie Elise Miller had 11 saves.
The Pioneers beat Pickerington North 23-17 on April 29 to improve to 5-4 overall and were 1-1 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Dublin Scioto on April 30.
Sophomore attacker Jenny Spragg scored five goals against Liberty, which also got two goals each from senior midfielder Maria Nobile, junior midfielder Becca Kean and sophomore attacker Lauren Nobile. Senior attacker Leah Haugh had the other goal and senior goalie Bailey Castillo had five saves.
Orange boys team continues strong play
The Orange boys team was 6-5 overall before playing DeSales on May 1 and is 3-1 in the OCC-Ohio.
The Pioneers defeated Darby 13-8 in a league game April 24 as senior midfielder Jarrod Gilliam, junior midfielder Anthony Smith and sophomore attacker Sam Button all scored twice.
Senior defender Tony Menzo, junior attacker Eddy Arnold, junior attacker Cameron Cristofoli, junior attacker Brandon Ritter, sophomore midfielder Carson Miller, freshman midfielder Adam Rieger and freshman attacker Josh Forrester all had one goal against Darby. Junior goalie Robert McHale and freshman goalie Michael Trombetti both had two saves.
Orange lost to Watterson 12-8 on April 26 despite four goals from Arnold and two goals from senior midfielder Aston Onesko. Junior midfielder Alex Menzo and freshman midfielder Tyler Lichter both scored once and McHale had 12 saves.
The Pioneers defeated Scioto 14-3 on April 27 as Arnold, Alex Menzo and Onesko all scored three goals. Lichter had two goals and Button, Cristofoli and Gilliam all scored once. Trombetti had four saves and McHale added three.
Olentangy girls team earns non-league wins
The Olentangy girls team was 8-2 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Liberty on April 30.
The Braves defeated Thomas Worthington 14-11 on April 23 as senior attacker Mallory Quiggle scored four times and both junior attacker Rachel Dietz and sophomore midfielder Katie Stegmann had three goals. Senior midfielder Kate Huter, sophomore attacker Stevie Jefferis, sophomore midfielder Haley McCullough and sophomore midfielder Mary Tarantine all scored one goal and junior goalie Emily Petrole had 17 saves.
Olentangy defeated DeSales 14-12 on April 27. Petrole and sophomore Madison Barnes both had five saves.