Upper Arlington motivated to reach state
The Upper Arlington High School boys lacrosse team already is planning to be at home June 8.
It's just a matter of whether the Golden Bears will be watching the Division I state final at Marv Moorehead Stadium or participating in it.
UA returns 16 players, including 10 seniors, from last season, when it finished 18-4 overall and beat Dublin Jerome 7-6 in the state final to snap the Celtics' 29-game winning streak and win its second state championship in three seasons and 13th overall.
"We're very motivated that we need to be there," senior defender and co-captain Jake Nolan said. "We can't have two other teams playing on our field in the state championship game."
But 23rd-year coach Ted Wolford has cautioned his players, warning them that reflecting too much or looking too far ahead could prove to be a costly mistake.
"Everything every year is new and different," said Wolford, whose team opens Wednesday, April 3, at home against Dublin Scioto in an OCC-Buckeye Division contest. "Even the guys returning are returning to new situations, maybe now being a senior and being a leader instead of hanging out and being a follower.
"Whatever was won was won by the group ahead of these guys. Last year's state championship belonged to that senior class and they took it with them. This group now has a chance to create their own history."
UA, which lost 12 players from a year ago to graduation, is looking to, among others, senior midfielders Gus Ackley and Garrett Gould, Nolan and senior goalkeeper Jack Warmolts for leadership. Ackley and Warmolts also are co-captains.
Last season, Warmolts was named first-team all-league, all-region and all-state, Jones was second-team all-region and honorable mention all-league and all-MSLCA, Ackley (23 goals, 4 assists) was second-team all-region and honorable mention all-MSLCA and Gould (20 goals, 7 assists) was second-team all-region.
The bulk of UA's experience is its defensive corps, which also features senior Joe Cameruca and Blake Myers and juniors Adam Ford, Brandon Jones, Ben Meier, Reid Neri, Trent Porterfield and Ben White and sophomore Jack Plasket.
"They're great communicators. They work really well with me," Warmolts said. "With defense, there's so much stuff going on that you need to have that level of communication with your teammates."
The midfield consists of Ackley, Gould, seniors James O'Neill, Zach Shy and Davey Strahm, juniors Carter Braet, Graham Devine, Kyle Roberts and Stuart Townsley and sophomores Griffin Caldwell, Kyle Kaparos, Will Myers and Max Rankin. The attackers are senior Zac Stowe, juniors Cam Marsh and Grant Schneider and sophomores Jack Pardi, Nate Scott, Jack Strahm and Justin Wick.
The midfielders and attackers will be tasked with helping replace the 112 goals scored by three key graduates in Tyler Pfister (51 goals, 26 assists), Eliot Allen (30 goals, 11 assists) and Charlie Trotier (31 goals, 17 assists). Last season, Pfister was named state Attacker of the Year and a first-team All-American, Allen was state Midfielder of the Year and Trotier, who played attack, was second-team all-region.
Serving as the backup goalie is junior Jack Reed.
"We graduated all three starting attackers and graduated some middies off the first two lines, but the great thing is we have a lot of kids who want to play and have worked really hard to fill those roles," Wolford said.
UA went 5-1 in the OCC-Buckeye last season to place second, behind Jerome (6-0) and ahead of Worthington Kilbourne (4-2), Thomas Worthington (3-3), Dublin Coffman (2-4), Hilliard Davidson (1-5) and Scioto (0-6).
The Bears visit Jerome on April 30.
In the postseason a year ago, UA defeated Westerville North 11-2 and Coffman 13-4 before beating Thomas 13-9 in the Central Region final.
The Bears then beat Mason 7-0 in a state semifinal to reach the final, where they avenged two regular-season losses to Jerome.
The Celtics had won 7-6 in their OCC-Buckeye matchup and 10-9 in the final of the MSLCA A bracket tournament at Thomas.
Ackley admits that he has watched video of last year's state championship game several times, including within the past few weeks.
"I've watched it a couple times with coach Wolford and a few of my buddies just for fun," said Ackley, who has committed to Trinity College in Connecticut, where he will play lacrosse and football.
"We played really well that game. If we can play that well again, that'd be great. But you never know."