With his goalkeeper pads on despite the fact that practice wouldn't start for a few more minutes, Tim McGougan stood in front of the goal and tried to stop one-on-one shots with no defense in front of him.

With his goalkeeper pads on despite the fact that practice wouldn't start for a few more minutes, Tim McGougan stood in front of the goal and tried to stop one-on-one shots with no defense in front of him.

He rarely feels put in that position during a game.

With a save-percentage of about .580, McGougan has done his part to help the Pickerington high school boys club lacrosse team stay in games as its young offense matures. He also is quick to point out that he's not been alone in helping the squad have one of the stronger defenses in the Club-North Division.

"We always try to make sure we're being vocal to each other," McGougan said. "We have two great seniors over there in Max Gowins and Chris Olney who have done a great job. It definitely makes it easier on me. I've not had to face many shots that aren't savable."

Pickerington had two of its poorest defensive games April 9 in a 13-10 loss to Olentangy and April 12 in a 9-8 loss to New Albany, but bounced back to shut down Division I opponents Westerville Central 14-2 on April 16 and Westerville South 8-5 on April 22.

Although it lost to Division I schools Cincinnati Sycamore 9-4 last Friday and Cincinnati Indian Hill 8-4 last Saturday, it has held six of its eight opponents to fewer than 10 goals.

Defense should play a key role Friday when Pickerington attempts to exact revenge on one of the top teams it will face in the Club-North. Sylvania, which lost to Pickerington 10-2 in the regular season but won the rematch 12-6 in a state semifinal last season, has one of the state's best offenses. Through its first six games, it was averaging 13.6 goals.

"We definitely want to win that game," Olney said.

"We get to play that game on the football field (at Pickerington North) and that game will be under the lights," Gowins said.

Olney and Gowins are two of the most experienced defenders in the Club Division. Olney, who attends North, played at long-stick midfielder as a freshman and sophomore before moving to close defense last year.

Gowins, who attends Central, has committed to play for Division I Detroit Mercy. He was at long-stick last year but has joined Olney at close defense.

"We've been executing our defense better in the last few games," Gowins said. "The first few games we gave up too many easy goals."

The experience Gowins and Olney have at long-stick midfielder has helped sophomore Jesse Whitehead's transition to the position as well. Junior Will Gordon played attacker last year for the junior varsity but has stepped in ably as the third close defenseman.

Despite the low number of goals Pickerington scored against Sycamore and Indian Hill, coach Mike Zustra believes an improving offense also has helped take pressure off the defense.

"We're a fairly young team and we're learning what it takes to win," Zustra said. "We're still in the middle of that process. We've shown a significant improvement in our practices and our offense has helped the defense by having better ball control. The most significant improvement has really been with our offense.

"Defensively, we've sort of been sticking to the script. They've been a little more organized this year. They've learned our defense better and better and have grasped our defensive strategy a little better this year."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Pickerington boys and girls club lacrosse teams:

BOYS

April 9 -- Lost to Olentangy 13-10

April 12 -- Lost to New Albany 9-8

April 16 -- Defeated Westerville Central 14-2

April 22 -- Def. Westerville South 8-5

Last Friday -- Lost to Cincinnati Sycamore 9-4

Last Saturday -- Lost to Cincinnati Indian Hill 8-4

Friday -- Home vs. Sylvania

Monday -- At Hilliard Darby. Last season, Pickerington won 9-2.

Of note: Pickerington is 4-4.

GIRLS

April 8 -- Lost to Olentangy 14-2

April 15 -- Lost to Olentangy Liberty 14-4

April 18 -- Lost to Hartley 14-2

April 24 -- Lost to Watterson 18-4

Last Saturday -- Lost to Green 7-6

Last Monday -- Def. South 7-5

Last Tuesday -- Played Bexley

Today -- At DeSales

Tuesday -- At Dublin Scioto

Of note: Pickerington was 1-6 before last Tuesday.