Upper Arlington High School girls lacrosse coach Wendy Pinta continues to see improvement from starting goalkeeper Hannah Panos, who is in her first season on varsity.

Upper Arlington High School girls lacrosse coach Wendy Pinta continues to see improvement from starting goalkeeper Hannah Panos, who is in her first season on varsity.

In fact, Pinta believes the sophomore may have had a breakout game in a 17-8 victory over Worthington Kilbourne on April 19. Panos had 11 saves to help hold the Wolves four goals below their average. Samantha Farwick and Sally Holbert each had four goals to lead the Golden Bears' offense.

According to Pinta, the highlight of the game was Panos' kick save of a uncontested shot.

"Hannah played with a higher level of intensity than I've seen her play with," Pinta said. "She's getting more active and gaining more confidence. She carried the ball out and didn't panic when she was getting defended and cleared the ball out well. A couple of weeks ago, that wouldn't have been the case.

"She is feeling more confident and more comfortable and that only brings up the level of the defense."

Panos said going from junior varsity to varsity is a major step given the caliber of UA's opponents.

"Basically, getting ready to start the season was difficult with all the conditioning and stuff," she said. "Once I got into it, I got into the groove of the team thing. I think we are playing really well as a team.

"The hardest thing is the different teams that we're facing. It's a big step from (junior varsity) to varsity. It's nice to have some really good teams to play against."

UA has shown improvement since surrendering 25 goals in a span of three games during a trip to Chicago on March 31 and April 1.

The Bears lost to Wilmette (Ill.) Loyola Academy 10-9 and Winnetka (Ill.) New Trier Township 11-10 on March 31 before defeating Bethesda (Md.) Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart Country Day 11-4 on April 1.

"We played two great teams down there and came pretty close to beating them," Panos said. "We know that there are great teams out there, but we do have the skills to play against them and beat them in the future."

Pinta believes Panos and the Bears' defense will have to take another step forward as they prepare to play four games in a seven-day span. UA plays host to Sewickley (Pa.) Academy on Friday, April 27, and Hudson on Saturday, April 28. It then will travel to New Albany on Tuesday, May 1, before playing host to Dublin Jerome on May 3.

In this week's laxpower.com Division I state poll, New Albany was second and Hudson was ninth. Both teams advanced to a state semifinal in 2011 and 2010.

Hudson, which was 4-4 after losing to New Albany 15-3 and losing to Cincinnati Ursuline Academy 5-4 in the Hannigan-Galipault tournament on April 21 at Thomas Worthington, was averaging 8.5 goals and allowing an average of 9.1 goals through seven games. The Bears were 2-1 against the Explorers the past two seasons, losing 12-9 during the regular season and winning 13-11 in a state semifinal in 2011 and winning 11-8 in a state semifinal in 2010.

New Albany, which was 7-0 after defeating Hudson 15-3 and Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown 10-9 on April 21, was averaging 15.1 goals and allowing an average of 8.4 goals through seven games. The Bears have lost their last three meetings with New Albany by a total of four goals, including a 12-11 overtime loss last year.

"Hudson's a speedy team and, historically, they've had great goalies," Pinta said. "It's a matter of honing our sets and working crash-defense or help-defense so we can get more turnovers on the defensive end."

"There's communication," Panos said. "When we talk together and play together is when we have the best results."

Boys team trying not to look too far ahead

The boys team has plenty of reasons to look forward to its game Wednesday, May 2, at Worthington Kilbourne.

The Bears not only will be looking to avenge a 10-4 loss to the Wolves in a Division I Central Region final last year, but will be looking to remain in contention for the OCC-Buckeye Division championship as well as get a high seed for the Midwest Scholastic Lacrosse Coaches Association tournament, which will be held May 11 and 12 at Thomas Worthington.

However, coach Ted Wolford doesn't want his team looking past any opponent, including Saturday, April 28, when it travels to Cincinnati St. Xavier.

"Kilbourne is a good team and we always look forward to playing them, but at this point in the season, we are really just focused on the game right in front of us," said Wolford, whose team was 9-2 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Buckeye before playing Dublin Jerome on April 25. "For us, it's just taking games one step at a time. No one is looking ahead to playing them."

The Bears, who are ranked third in the Laxpower.com state poll, defeated fourth-ranked Medina 11-7 on April 21 as Tyler Pfister scored four goals. Jerome is ranked first and Kilbourne is ranked second.

Last season, Kilbourne snapped the Bears' 19-year streak of reaching the state final. The Wolves, who were 9-1 after defeating Dublin Scioto 19-1 on April 21, were averaging 10 goals and allowing an average 6.4 goals through 10 games.

"I'd much rather be in that position where we are being pushed and our guys are getting better because of that," Wolford said. "It's a lot more fun to play the game when you are being pushed than when you are blowing people out."