Depth and a veteran defensive presence may be the keys to success for the Olentangy Liberty High School boys lacrosse team as the Patriots tinker with their offense.

Depth and a veteran defensive presence may be the keys to success for the Olentangy Liberty High School boys lacrosse team as the Patriots tinker with their offense.

Liberty returns 20 letterwinners from a team that finished 12-7 overall last season and placed second (5-1) in the OCC-Ohio Division behind Olentangy (6-0).

The Patriots now play in the OCC-Buckeye with Olentangy, defending Division I state champion Upper Arlington, state runner-up Dublin Jerome, Dublin Coffman, Hilliard Davidson, Thomas Worthington and Worthington Kilbourne.

"Our defense is the strength of our team after allowing just over six goals a game last year while playing juniors and sophomores, and we averaged 10 goals a game," second-year coach Jason Godwin said. "If we can continue that into this year, we will be dangerous.

"Another thing going for us right now is our depth. We have 20 returning letterwinners back with nine new guys eager to get into the mix."

Junior defender Jackson Druckenbroad (61 groundballs) was first-team all-league last season, as were senior attacker Mitchell Hughes (28 goals, 5 assists) and senior midfielders Matt Kessler (19 goals, 9 assists, 30 groundballs) and Ross Pettitt (70 groundballs). Junior attacker Drew Gouhin (23 goals, 14 assists, 43 groundballs) was second-team all-league.

Senior attacker Patrick Bruck (18 goals, 37 groundballs), senior midfielder Conner Bull (14 goals, 9 assists, 40 groundballs), senior attacker Brendan Ryan (16 goals, 8 assists) and junior midfielder Nick Durtschi (17 goals, 9 assists) were other top scorers.

Also back are junior midfielder Ryan Gratz (60 groundballs), junior defender Jake Worrell (50 groundballs), senior defender Kyle Wagner (49 groundballs), junior goalkeeper Sean Murphy (156 saves) and senior defender Cameron Senhauser, a Mount Union recruit.

"We have kids who can score goals," said Godwin, whose team opened March 24 with a 9-2 win over Hudson and begins league play Tuesday, April 1, against visiting Kilbourne. "Our challenge will be getting the ball to those goal-scorers on a consistent basis.

"Individually, we have great talent, but we need to understand that we are better as a team. If we can get our talent to mesh together, who knows what can stop us."

Braves returntalented group

Olentangy returns its top scorers and three future college players from a team that won the OCC-Ohio and finished 18-2 with both losses coming to Jerome, including 9-2 in the Division I Northwest Region final.

Senior defenders Austin Bean (85 groundballs; first-team all-league) and Jonah Gutentag (50 groundballs; second-team all-league) have signed to play at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pa., while senior goalie Cole Palmby (first-team all-league) will play at Capital.

Junior attacker Cliff Kigar (first-team all-league) had 44 goals, 15 assists and 50 groundballs last season. Other top scorers back are senior midfielder Zach Potter (11 goals, 9 assists) and junior midfielder Caelan Laughlin (14 goals, 4 assists).

"The strength of our team is that the players have a continual desire to get better every day," said second-year coach Zach Peterson, whose team opened March 25 against North Canton Hoover and begins OCC-Buckeye play Wednesday, April 2, against visiting Thomas. "Practice is a competitive atmosphere because we have great senior captains who set the tone for excellence every day."

The captains are senior midfielder Josh Baumbach, Bean, Gutentag and Potter.

Nick Brooks (defender), Luke Greenzalis (midfielder), Grant Lowe (defender), John McInturf (defender) and Josh Seemann (midfielder) round out the senior class.

Also in the program are juniors Matt Allocco (midfielder), Blake Bower (midfielder), Ryan Dop (goalie), Blake Saliaris (midfielder) and Nick Tarpey (midfielder), sophomores Tanner Held (midfielder), Andrew Kaylor (midfielder), Will Lucas (midfielder), Brendan Margolies (defender) and Zach Whitenack (defender) and freshman Patrick Grubb (midfielder).

Large senior classto propel Pioneers

Orange returns 15 seniors from a team that finished 11-8 overall and placed third in the OCC-Ohio at 4-2.

Those seniors include the Pioneers' top returning scorers in midfielders Alex Menzo (32 goals, 14 assists, 35 groundballs) and Ashton Onesko (30 goals, 3 assists). Also back are sophomore midfielder Tyler Lichter (12 goals, 7 assists, 38 groundballs) and junior attacker Sam Button (10 goals, 7 assists).

Attacker Eddy Arnold (first-team all-league) was the Pioneers' top scorer last year with 34 goals and 28 assists, but the senior moved to Texas.

Senior Robert McHale and sophomore Michael Trombetti are back in goal, with the defense being led by senior returnees Jacob Lewis (61 groundballs; second-team all-league) and Tony Menzo.

"We have a huge senior class and most of them have significant varsity experience," said first-year coach Will Mathes, who played at UA and was an assistant at Columbus Academy. "Both Tony Menzo and Jacob Lewis are anchors for our defense, so that will certainly be a strong suit. I also think we have a number of offensive weapons that could present matchup problems."

Rounding out the senior class are midfielders Michael Anderson, Justin Gels, Joey Kimball, Michael Secrist and Anthony Smith and defenders Taylor Barr, Mark Beshara, Coleman Metzger, Andrew Peura and Drake Straty.

Junior attacker Nick Cannon transferred from DeSales. Key sophomores also include defender Jake Fisher, midfielder Josh Forrester and attacker Adam Rieger.

"I think we have a good mixture of talent at every position," said Mathes, who replaced two-year coach Sean McGinnis. "Last year's team set a standard for other teams to follow. We are going to work on setting a new standard for the program."

Orange, which opened March 26 against Bexley, will compete in the OCC-Ohio with Dublin Scioto, Gahanna, Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Darby, Marysville and New Albany. Its league opener is April 9 at home against Gahanna.