Defense playing pivotal role
Jack Warmolts of the Upper Arlington High School boys lacrosse team has found himself idle for long stretches during the first three weeks of the season.
The senior goalkeeper can't thank his defense enough.
Complementing a potent offense, the Golden Bears' defense allowed 15 goals through seven games, as UA was 7-0 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Buckeye Division before playing Hilliard Davidson on April 24.
Through seven games, the Bears posted two shutouts and allowed more than three goals only once, in a 16-5 win over Dublin Coffman on April 17 in a league contest.
UA was averaging 10.6 goals before facing Davidson.
Seniors Joe Cameruca and Jake Nolan lead a defensive corps that also includes classmate Blake Myers off the bench, juniors Brandon Jones, Ben Meier, Reid Neri and sophomore Jack Plasket.
"Joe is a huge communicator in that group," Warmolts said. "Jake is 6-(foot)-7, so he just goes and mauls people. Brandon is a great lockdown defenseman. (Cameruca, Nolan and Jones) work well together, and I don't think they get enough recognition. That's the reason the opponent's scores have been so low. They've really eliminated the other team's attack moves."
Cameruca attributed the Bears' success to communication, speed and familiarity between teammates.
"It goes back to communication and being able to talk. So if someone does get beat, we know who is there to help, who can slide over," he said. "As far as clearing the ball, it's just getting into 2-on-1s and finding out where we have an advantage."
Warmolt, who has been sharing the workload in goal with junior backup Jack Reed, faced six shots in a season-opening 15-1 win over Dublin Scioto on April 3 in an OCC-Buckeye game. The Bears outshot Pittsburgh Shady Side Academy 20-4 in an 8-1 win on April 7, and Warmolts had to make only two saves in a 6-0 win over Thomas Worthington on April 13 in a league contest.
With two tournaments that will feature elite competition from around the state and outside Ohio looming in the next month, coach Ted Wolford remains cautiously optimistic.
"Our season is a journey. It's not about one destination or one game," he said.
"Ultimately, it's about the progression you have during the course of your season and being in a position where you don't feel comfortable now, thinking we've already done something."
Wolford has been impressed with the play of his younger players, particularly two who are among the Bears' top offensive players. Sophomore attacker Justin Wick had a team-high 15 goals through five games, followed by senior attacker Gus Ackley with nine and sophomore attacker Jack Pardi with seven.
"They've done a good job at times taking advantage of the opposition and chances they've been given," Wolford said of Wick and Pardi. "With all the touches they get at this level of play, it's great that they're sophomores contributing, but they'd both tell you the way they're playing is not where they envision themselves to be by the end of the year."
The same could be said about the entire team. UA knows it will be tested when it competes in the Midwest Scholastic Lacrosse Coaches Association Tournament on May 3 and 4 at Thomas Worthington and in the North American Lacrosse Invitational at Bloomfield Hills (Mich.) Brother Rice on May 18 and 19. The bracket for each tournament won't be determined until the week before each event.
In the meantime, the Bears are looking to maintain their current pace on both sides of the ball.
"You can't expect that nobody's going to score," Nolan said. "You have to keep getting better and communicate better. There's still a lot of work and a lot of good teams ahead of us."