Coach Zach Peterson had his Olentangy High School boys lacrosse team in position for a victory in the Division I Northwest Region final June 1 at top-seeded Dublin Jerome.
The second-seeded Braves trailed by one goal after one period and by three at halftime, but the Celtics turned to a patient offensive attack in the third quarter to extend their lead in a 9-2 win.
The Braves finished 18-2 overall, with both losses coming to Jerome. They also lost to the Celtics 13-5 on April 5.
"When we were down by one after the first quarter and by three at half, I felt pretty good," said Peterson, who completed his first season. "We have scored five or six goals in a quarter several times this season, so I felt like we were in it.
"But (the Celtics) have such good depth. They have five or six scorers and some of them are lefties, which makes it even more difficult. They're more like a small college team than a high school team."
Senior midfielder Lukas Smith and sophomore attacker Cliff Kigar scored and senior midfielder Jeff Simmons had an assist. Junior goalkeeper Cole Palmby had 10 saves.
Olentangy defeated fifth-seeded Orange 10-7 on May 29 in a regional semifinal and seventh-seeded Medina 11-6 on May 25 in a first-round game.
The Braves won the OCC-Ohio Division at 6-0, ahead of Liberty (5-1), Orange (4-2), New Albany (3-3), Hilliard Bradley (1-5), Hilliard Darby (1-5) and Gahanna (1-5).
Senior midfielder Mitch Newell, who has signed with Queens (N.Y.) College, was the league's Player of the Year, scoring 35 goals with 18 assists. Senior midfielder Eric Milliron was first-team all-league with 21 goals and 10 assists, and senior defender Tate Stover, an Ohio State signee, was first-team-all-league with 41 groundballs.
Other first-team all-league honorees were junior defender Austin Bean (85 groundballs), Palmby and Kigar (44 goals, 15 assists, 50 groundballs). Junior defender Jonah Gutentag (50 groundballs) was second-team all-league and Simmons (18 goals, 9 assists) was honorable mention all-league.
Other scoring leaders included senior midfielder Austin Lilly (18 goals, 6 assists), Smith (13 goals, 8 assists), senior attacker Jake Temple (23 goals, 9 assists, 40 groundballs), junior midfielder Zach Potter (11 goals, 9 assists) and sophomore midfielder Caelan Laughlin (14 goals, 4 assists).
The Braves lose 14 seniors.
"The hardest part as a coach is saying goodbye to a great group like this," Peterson said. "It was fun to see how far they have come since we started in February and to see them become great leaders on and off of the field."
Also expected back are junior midfielder Josh Baumbach, sophomore goalie Ryan Dop, sophomore defender Tanner Held and freshman defender Zach Whitenack.
"We really have a strong sophomore class and our j.v. team was undefeated, winning by an average of nine goals per game," Peterson said. "We hope to be able to reload from the pipeline. I'm already excited about next year."
Orange posts first winning season
Orange finished 11-8 overall, its first winning season, after losing at Olentangy 10-7 in a Division I Northwest Region semifinal May 29.
"This was a season of firsts for us whether we won or lost (the regional semifinal)," said coach Sean McGinnis, who completed his second season. "We had our first winning season and we finished 4-2 in the league after never having won a league game before this year."
Fifth-seeded Orange also won at third-seeded Liberty 11-10 on May 25 in the first round of the tournament after defeating 11th-seeded Brunswick 15-4 at home May 23 in a play-in game.
Junior attacker Eddy Arnold (first-team all-OCC-Ohio) led the team in scoring with 34 goals and 28 assists, followed by junior midfielder Alex Menzo (32 goals, 14 assists, 35 groundballs), senior midfielder Jarrod Gilliam (29 goals, 14 assists), junior midfielder Aston Onesko (30 goals, 3 assists), freshman midfielder Tyler Lichter (12 goals, 7 assists, 38 groundballs), junior attacker Brandon Ritter (8 goals, 16 assists) and sophomore attacker Sam Button (10 goals, 7 assists).
Junior Robert McHale and freshman Michael Trombetti played in goal.
Second-team all-league honorees were senior defender Cole Gabalis (51 groundballs), Gilliam, Menzo and junior defender Jake Lewis (61 groundballs). Senior defender Mike Forbes (35 groundballs) was honorable mention all-league.
The senior class also included midfielder Evan Roehll.
Also expected back are juniors Michael Anderson (midfielder), Taylor Barr (defender), Joey Kimball (midfielder), Tony Menzo (defender), Coleman Metzger (defender), Andrew Puera (midfielder), Michael Secrist (midfielder), Anthony Smith (midfielder) and Drake Straty (defender), sophomores Nick Buening (midfielder), Bryce Meade (defender), Carson Miller (midfielder) and Brett Schutte (midfielder) and freshmen Josh Forrester (attacker) and Adam Rieger (midfielder).
"I hope this (regional semifinal) loss leaves a bad taste in their mouths," McGinnis said. "This hopefully will drive them in the offseason to get better and to go further in the tournament."
Liberty to return plenty of experience
Liberty finished 12-7 overall after losing to Orange 11-10 in the first round of the Division I Northwest Region tournament May 25.
Receiving first-team all-OCC-Ohio honors were junior attacker Mitchell Hughes (28 goals, 5 assists), junior midfielder Matt Kessler (19 goals, 9 assists, 30 groundballs), junior midfielder Ross Pettitt (70 groundballs) and sophomore defenseman Jackson Druckenbroad (61 groundballs). Sophomore attacker Drew Gouhin (23 goals, 12 assists, 43 groundballs) was second-team all-league and senior midfielder Shane Rakich (17 goals, 32 assists, 31 groundballs) was honorable mention.
Senior midfielder Jake Rakich (9 goals, 11 assists, 25 groundballs), junior attacker Patrick Bruck (18 goals, 1 assist, 37 groundballs), junior midfielder Conner Bull (14 goals, 9 assists, 40 groundballs), junior attacker Brendan Ryan (16 goals, 8 assists) and sophomore midfielder Nick Durtschi (17 goals, 9 assists) were other top scorers.
Sophomore midfielder Kyle Gratz had 60 groundballs, sophomore defender Jake Worrell had 50 and junior defender Kyle Wagner had 49. Sophomore goalie Sean Murphy had 156 saves.
"We only had two seniors (in Jake and Shane Rakich), but they were four-year letterwinners," said coach Jason Godwin, who completed his first season. "They were positive and didn't get down. I hope the young guys took notice to how special they were."
Also expected back are juniors Cole Bumpass (attacker), Daryian Davies (defender), Mitchell Lagrou (midfielder), Jack Murphy (attacker), Alex Rakich (midfielder) and Cameron Senhouser (defender) and sophomores Patrick Barboza (defender), Matthew Bobbit (attacker), Sam Chickerella (midfielder), Matt Helton (defender), Mario Innacito (goalie) and Ford Matthews (midfielder).
"We have a lot of experience coming back, and that should help us," Godwin said. "There will be a lot of competition for spots and that will make us better."