First-year Pickerington High School Central boys lacrosse coach Matt Erdlitz prefers to use the phrase "in transition" to describe the state of his program, as opposed to rebuilding.

First-year Pickerington High School Central boys lacrosse coach Matt Erdlitz prefers to use the phrase "in transition" to describe the state of his program, as opposed to rebuilding.

In addition to having a new coach, the Tigers lost several key players to graduation from a team that won the OCC-Central Division championship and finished 14-3 overall a year ago.

Erdlitz replaced Pete Campbell, who left after his second season to take an assistant coaching job with Severn (Md.) Spalding.

"We lost three or four really good seniors, guys who were horses, rocks, the last two years," said Erdlitz, whose team opened March 26 at Dublin Scioto. "But we've got a really great core of young guys, especially at the sophomore level. I've been really happy to see them take their roles and run with them and embrace them. Last year they were (junior varsity) players and they'll be expected to perform at a certain level."

The Tigers' strength appears to be on defense, where senior Collin Morgan is back after being first-team all-league.

Other returnees on defense are senior Luke Rust and junior Adam Grumann. Junior Greg Bowers and sophomore Sam Schooley are at long-stick midfielder, with junior Ron Lawrence and sophomore Devon McMillin at defensive midfielder.

Junior Brad Dowdell and freshman Stephen Warren both could see time at goalkeeper.

On offense, Central should be led by senior Ian McGougan, juniors Chris Bowers and Brad Morris and sophomore Johnathan Napier at midfielder and senior Zane Kenney and sophomore Jake Pineda at attacker.

Erdlitz is a 2000 Hilliard Davidson graduate who played for Ohio Wesleyan. The last two seasons, he served as the offensive coordinator as the Tigers averaged more than 12 goals.

A year ago, Central's offense was led by 2013 graduates Devon Maki and Brent Walton, who both were first-team all-league.

The Tigers beat Pickerington North 12-8 on the way to winning the league title at 6-0. They begin league play Wednesday, April 2, at Westerville Central.

"Defensively, we've got everybody back and then some, so I would venture to say we'll have one of the best defenses in the conference," Erdlitz said. "We've got a wealth of experience, although not necessarily at the varsity level."

New North coachexcited for season

North also has a new coach in Danny Gibson, who is from Grand Blanc, Mich., and moved to Ohio two years ago.

He was an assistant for the first five games last season under Chris Robbins then spent five months playing for a men's lacrosse team in Australia before moving back to Ohio a few months ago.

Robbins now is Gahanna's coach after not having his contract renewed by North. He was OCC-Central Coach of the Year last season as the Panthers went 9-10 overall and tied Delaware for second in the league at 4-2.

North opened March 26 at DeSales and begins league play April 9 at Big Walnut.

"The No. 1 thing I wanted to do with the coaching staff was establish a very open safety net for the players," Gibson said. "(The players) can ask questions, but they can make their own decisions. If they choose to slack off, they have to run. We're slowly watching boys become men and I think they're really starting to learn the game a lot more."

The top returnees are senior attacker Nick Rollason, who has committed to Hiram College, and junior defender Stephen Hertenstein.

Expected to join Hertenstein on defense are juniors Tyler Ervin and Ben Wilson, with sophomore Tommy Kolibash and Glenn Southward at long-stick midfielder.

Junior Gunnar Monk and sophomore Jarod Lutz are the goalies.

Rollason will be joined at attacker by juniors Jacoby Grundey and Hunter Morgan and freshman Landon Trout.

Junior Logan Murphy, junior twins Cody Notestine and Nick Notestine and freshman Bryce Keaton will be at midfielder. Cody Notestine missed last season with a shoulder injury but was healthy enough to be a Division I district qualifier in wrestling this winter, as was Nick Notestine.

The Panthers lost eight players from last year to graduation, including OCC-Central Player of the Year Austin Brady, who scored more than 70 goals and is at State University of New York at Cortland. Seth Caudill (Wittenberg), Alex Dankowski (Wittenberg) and Nate Hess (Otterbein) were other 2013 graduates who are playing collegiately.

"I'm not a coach that's going to be hung up about our record," Gibson said. "I want them to perform in the classroom first, and I don't see any reason we can't compete for the OCC title. We lost a couple great individuals, but we've gained a team."