The Upper Arlington High School boys lacrosse team lost one attacker, two defenders, a three-year starter at goalkeeper and five midfielders to graduation after winning its second consecutive Division I state championship last season.
The Golden Bears had no time to ease into this season, however, as they opened April 2 with an OCC-Buckeye Division game at Dublin Jerome, their opponent in the Division I state final the past two years.
That said, 23rd-year coach Ted Wolford doesn't plan to read too much into his team's early-season results.
"We're still an inexperienced but very athletic group," Wolford said. "We work hard in game situations and practice. It's a nice group of kids. ... We're getting to where we want to be as far as taking steps forward."
Last season, UA finished 20-2 overall and 6-0 in the OCC-Buckeye and won its third state title in four years and 14th overall, defeating Jerome 7-6 in the state final. The Bears beat the Celtics by the same score in the 2012 state final.
UA, which outscored its league opponents 72-17 a year ago, returns four starters in senior defender Brandon Jones, senior attacker Cam Marsh, senior midfielder Kyle Roberts and junior attacker Justin Wick. Last season, Wick had a team-high 34 goals and was named first-team all-Central Region and second-team all-state, Marsh had 14 goals and Jones was first-team all-state and all-region.
Junior attacker Jack Pardi also saw considerable playing time last year, scoring 18 goals.
Among the key offensive players lost to graduation were midfielder Gus Ackley, who scored 32 goals last season and is playing at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., and attacker Zac Stowe, who had 30 goals a year ago and is playing for Otterbein University.
"We're focusing on really passing the ball well," said Marsh, who scored the winning goal in the state final last year with 2 minutes, 3 seconds remaining. "Jack Pardi will have to step up this year. Me and Justin are comfortable playing together, and Jack is stepping in, too. We'll have some newer, younger guys, too. We just have to keep playing together."
Other attackers are senior Grant Schneider, juniors Nate Scott and Jack Strahm and sophomores Ben Baker and Cole Kaparos.
Midfielders are seniors Carter Braet, Graham Devine and Stuart Townsley, juniors Griffin Caldwell, Danny Harkin, Kyle Kaparos, Wil Myers, Ryan Querry and Max Rankin, sophomores Jake Anderson, Danny Logan and Nicko Schuman and freshman E.J. Caldwell.
Rounding out the corps of defenders are seniors Adam Ford, Ben Meier, Trent Porterfield and Ben White, juniors Wynn Brown, Jackson Pfister and Jack Plasket and sophomore Joe Levitt.
Senior Jack Reed, junior Wes Markwood and sophomore Christian Carlin are vying to replace graduate Jack Warmolts in goal. Warmolts earned first-team All-American and all-state honors last year and is playing for U.S. Air Force Academy.
"It's a daily competition to see who can make the saves, who can give us the best direction and leadership and who can help us clear the ball," Wolford said.
UA plays its home opener Wednesday, April 9, against new OCC-Buckeye foe Olentangy Liberty. Dublin Scioto moved from the OCC-Buckeye to the OCC-Ohio and was replaced by Liberty and Olentangy.
"We know that we are the team to beat at this point and we have a target on our back," Marsh said.
"But coach Wolford really emphasizes that we have to start from the bottom and work our way back to the top. It's a new season."