The Olentangy Orange High School field hockey team struggled through a winless 2012 season, finishing 0-12-3 overall and losing to Thomas Worthington 11-0 in its district tournament opener.

The Olentangy Orange High School field hockey team struggled through a winless 2012 season, finishing 0-12-3 overall and losing to Thomas Worthington 11-0 in its district tournament opener.

Even though the Pioneers lost their first two Central Ohio Field Hockey League-West Division games this season (7-0 to Liberty on Aug. 27 and 3-0 to Dublin Jerome on Aug. 29) and were 0-4 overall before playing Columbus School for Girls on Sept. 3, coach Erin Otten said she is optimistic her team is turning things around.

"This is a completely different team than previous years," Otten said. "I feel like this team has a lot more drive and desire to win. These girls have put in a ton of extra work in the offseason, from camps to clinics to club leagues. And the majority of our veteran players have been on varsity since their sophomore year. So they are really looking forward to putting their hard work to the test and hammering out some wins."

The Pioneers have five third-year starters in seniors Taylor Collett (defender) and Jaimey Dudley (defender) and junior attackers Hannah Kimball, Brittany Lower and Cailey Lower. It would have been six, but senior midfielder Alyssa Combs is expected to miss the season with a torn knee ligament.

Junior attacker Olivia Kamer is a second-year starter, while seniors Cierra Beaumier (goalkeeper) and Lauren Richards (defender), junior Mackenzie Siebert (defender) and sophomores Kailey Collett (midfielder) and Charlotte Groce (defender) are first-year starters.

Completing the roster are senior Katie Grimes (defender), juniors Carley Dudley (midfielder) and Lauren Harter (defender) and sophomore Eily Cogan (midfielder).

"This year, I would say our biggest strength is our ability to transition up the field together," Otten said. "Starting with the defensive unit, they do a beautiful job of defending the goal and handling the ball to the midfield.

"Our downfall, however, is scoring off the rebound. We need to become more aggressive and hungry for those goals because that will really determine if we win or lose the game."

The Pioneers are competing in the COFHL-West with Liberty, Olentangy, Dublin Coffman, Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto, Thomas Worthington and Upper Arlington.

"Our goal is to win at least five of our division games," Otten said. "Liberty and Thomas are definitely the powerhouse teams in the division, so they will be our toughest competitors. As far as the postseason goes, we still have yet to get a first-round win in the tournament, so I would love to see the girls accomplish that this year."

Patriots undefeated through three games

Liberty has started 2-0-1 overall and 1-0-1 in the COFHL-West.

The Patriots defeated Lancaster 11-0 on Aug. 24, beat Orange 7-0 in a league game Aug. 27 and tied Upper Arlington at 1 in a league game Aug. 29.

Last year, Liberty set a season record for wins by going 15-4 and scored a season-record 93 goals while giving up 22. The Patriots reached a district final, where they lost to eventual state champion Columbus Academy 1-0.

"One goal is to win our (COFHL) division," coach Marianne Flannery said. "But Thomas Worthington, Upper Arlington and Dublin Coffman have very competitive teams, so it won't be easy. Our ultimate goal is to continue to build on last year's momentum and get into the state final four."

Flannery said senior forward Gaby Perez, junior midfielder Dani Bursinger and junior goalie Maddie Passarella are serving as team captains.

Also competing for Liberty are seniors Sydney Uttam (defender), Monique Vanderhulst (defender) and Leah Zevchik (attacker), juniors Kendall Hunker (midfielder), Lauren Ludwig (defender), Meg Partin (attacker), Rachel Warner (defender), Mallory Wiles (midfielder) and Christina Yamarick (defender), sophomores Anna Ruess (midfielder), Karri Stadulis (attacker) and Olivia Susi (defender) and freshmen Claire Buckey (attacker) and Mara Hunter (attacker).

"I like our balance," Flannery said. "Of the 17 girls on our roster, eight of them scored in our first three games. Overall, this team is more talented. We don't have any superstars, but all 17 players are very capable of contributing."

Braves looking to top last season

Olentangy opened Aug. 24 by tying Hartley at 2 before beating CSG 2-1 in overtime Aug. 27.

The Braves were 1-1-1 overall and 0-1 in the COFHL-West after losing to Coffman 2-1 in a league game Aug. 29.

First-year coach Allison Neff said her team is aiming for bigger goals after it lost to Bexley 6-0 in the first round of the district tournament last season to finish 5-10 overall and end its season on an eight-game losing streak.

"We're in a tough league, but I'm excited because I think we're going to do better than people expect," Neff said. "Our team has always been more defensive in the past, so we're using a lot more attack-oriented formations this year and we've been on our opponents' side of the field a lot more.

"We're using three or four forwards, depending on the situation, and we're getting great breakaways and better scoring opportunities."

Seniors Kara Anderson (defender) and Alyssa Lucas (midfielder) and junior defender Alex McCafferty are team captains.

Also competing for the Braves are seniors Allison Bartel (attacker), Rachel Dannenhauer (attacker), Makenna Jacobs (defender), Emilie Laubenthal (midfielder) and Kasia Placek (midfielder), juniors Haley Abramowitz (defender), Madison Barnes (goalie), Sierra Bell (defender), Emily Brehm (defender), Stephanie Jefferis (attacker), Katelyn Rottkamp (attacker) and Mary Tarantine (attacker), sophomore midfielder Emma Saunders and freshmen Allison Martin (attacker) and Dana Stover (midfielder).

"After I watched them practice and scrimmage, I could tell we had a special group of players," Neff said. "We don't have one dominating player, but every single one of them has the ability to make us a better team this year."