One of the characteristics of the Pickerington High School North boys lacrosse team that first-year coach Danny Gibson has been pleased with is the camaraderie he's seen among his players.
That goes for off the field as well.
One of the projects the team has been involved with this month has been helping to repair fields at Toll Gate Elementary.
"We are aware of young boys and girls playing in the fields next to our practice field on recess and after school," Gibson said. "We made the initiative to help dig up these patches of land to yield a fun-filled, injury-free environment for the kids. (We want) to make a fun situation even better.
"The nice part about having a group of young men is that they are young men, not boys. They are all very supportive of their team members and are encouraging."
The Panthers lost to Delaware 16-12 on April 21 to fall to 1-1 in the OCC-Central Division. They were 2-5 overall before playing Granville on April 23.
North beat Wellington 15-2 on April 6 and earned its first league victory April 9 when it defeated Big Walnut 8-3.
The Panthers followed with losses to Olentangy Orange (9-4 on April 14) and New Albany (10-4 on April 16).
They travel Friday, April 25, to Pickerington Central in a rematch of a game the Tigers won 12-8 a year ago.
"It is a matter of effort and attitude for us," Gibson said. "We can show up and play like the best team in the state one day and then play average another.
"Our guys are told to try everything at least twice in case they hadn't given their best effort the first time. In order for us to get where we have not been as a team, we must be willing to do things we have not done as a team."
Among the standouts for the Panthers, according to Gibson, have been sophomore Kye Betzel as a face-off specialist, junior attacker Jake Grundey and junior defender Stephan Hertenstein.
Central girls continue hot play
The Central girls team posted its first winning season a year ago when it went 10-7.
Led by the offensive skills of junior attacker Nessa Petropavlovskiy and a five-member senior class, the Tigers seem on their way to significantly surpassing that mark.
Central was 8-1 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Ohio before playing non-league Hilliard Darby on April 22.
The Tigers' only loss came to Bexley 11-9 on April 1, and they followed with a five-game winning streak in which they averaged 16.6 goals.
"We are very well-run on the offensive side," coach Christine Miller said. "Our goal is to win the OCC this year."
Central plays host to Pickerington North on Friday, April 25, in a rematch of a game North won 18-9 a year ago.
Petropavlovskiy, who scored 51 goals a year ago, had 41 goals through nine games this season.
She has been joined at attacker by junior Carly Noel and sophomores Aubrey Cernus and Kat Walton.
According to Petropav-lovskiy, she and Walton each recently was selected to represent Team Ohio in the junior national tournament.
"Actually growing up I was an unathletic child," Petro-pavlovskiy said. "I moved to Pickerington in fifth grade and at first when I came out for lacrosse I wasn't very good. Midway through my sixth-grade year I decided to go toward the goal and now my main thing has been scoring goals."
Miller also has been pleased with the play of seniors Courtney Jones (defensive midfielder) and Kaeleigh Norvet (defender/midfielder), who have committed to Tiffin and Alderson Broaddus, respectively.
"(Nessa is) a great scorer, but she's not selfish," Miller said. "We're about the team and not one player. We're well-rounded."
Central boys battling injuries
A series of close losses and injuries to key players have kept the Central boys team from having the kind of record it was hoping for.
The Tigers, who beat Gahanna 13-4 on April 18 and lost to Centerville 6-3 on April 19, were 4-6 overall and 1-2 in the OCC-Central before playing Big Walnut on April 23.
"We have had flashes of our potential as a team, but injuries have cost us dearly," coach Matt Erdlitz said. "In our first game of the year, we lost our senior defensive captain Colin Morgan (to a season-ending knee injury). Since then, we have a starting attackman who has a potential season-ending injury as well and three sprained ankles. It certainly hasn't been a lack of talent or effort from the boys -- it's been about numbers. Guys who have varsity playing experience are at a premium."
Junior Adam Grumman and senior Luke Rust have been the top defenders since the loss of Morgan. Sophomore Devon McMillan has moved from defensive midfielder to defender.
Junior Brad Morris and sophomores Zack Slovina, Jake Pineda, J.P. Napier and Logan Smith have been other contributors, according to Erdlitz.
"I've been very happy with junior midfielder Brad Morris stepping up to take our faceoffs," Erdlitz said. "He's a big, physical guy with strong arms, which doesn't hurt on the faceoff."
North girls trying to win close games
The North girls team follows its game Friday, April 25, at Pickerington Central by playing host to Olentangy Orange on Tuesday, April 29.
The Panthers beat Gahanna 14-3 on April 17 to improve to 2-0 in the OCC-Ohio and defeated Marysville 19-7 on April 19. They were 4-5 overall before playing Olentangy on April 22.
North's first two losses were to Columbus School for Girls (14-13 on April 1) and Dublin Scioto (14-12 on April 5), and it also lost a close game April 15 at Hartley (14-11).
The Panthers' first two wins were over league-foe Westerville North (17-7 on April 1) and North Canton Hoover (5-4 on April 12 in the Hannigan-Galipault Tournament at Thomas Worthington).
"We've been playing well," coach Emily Reincheld said. "There's always room for improvement. We're learning every day where we fall short. We need constant work on groundballs and communication. Groundballs win games and we let the other team win them too often."
Defenders Mackenzie Barnes and Carly Clinger have been among the standouts for the Panthers, according to Reincheld.
"Our upperclassmen have been a huge asset to the team," Reincheld said. "The leadership they provide is so appreciated, not only from myself but from the younger girls."