The Westerville Central High School boys club lacrosse team will be relying on youth to try to improve on last season's 8-8 record.

The Westerville Central High School boys club lacrosse team will be relying on youth to try to improve on last season's 8-8 record.

The Warhawks have just four seniors on their 21-player roster.

Central, which lost to Worthington Kilbourne 20-0 in the first round of the Division I regional last season, returns three of its top four scorers.

But coach Marc Ayle said the defense will carry the team. Although the Warhawks will be breaking in a new goalie in junior Zach Lowe, he'll get the opportunity to play behind a defense that includes returnees in senior Garrett Curtis and juniors Kamren Curtis, Zach Swick and Matt Taflan.

"Defensively we're a little stronger right now than we are on offense," said Ayle, whose team opens Saturday at Dublin Scioto and plays Wednesday at Bexley. "We're breaking in a new goalie, but we've been very impressed with Zach's performance."

Sophomore Jake Marburger (25 goals, 11 assists), senior Tanner Ayle (16 goals, 11 assists) and junior Bill Calpin (25 goals, 7 assists) return to lead the attack.

Also expected to contribute are seniors Brad Blake, Trevor Comegys and Josh Stempko, juniors Brett Holt, Sean O'Neal, Casey Phillips, Cory Schorling, Kyle Stephenson, Matt Taggart and Josh Wagner and sophomores Connor Johnson, Maurice McGee and Asa Plant.

The Warhawks finished fourth at 2-3 in the OCC-Ohio Division a year ago behind Olentangy (5-0), Westerville South (4-1) and Westerville North (3-2) and ahead of Olentangy Liberty (1-4) and New Albany (0-5).

•North finished 7-8 last year after losing to Olentangy 13-11 in the first round of the Division I tournament.

During the preseason the Warriors have been transitioning from former coach Adam Beasley to new coach Tom Welsh.

Making the transition tougher is the uncertainty of senior attacker Greg Hopkins, who had 24 goals and 13 assists last year and was expected to be the team's top returning scorer. Hopkins will miss at least the first half of the season as he recovers from a serious internal ailment.

North will turn to sophomore Drew Hathaway, who had 18 goals and 11 assists last year. He will move from the midfield to fill Hopkins' spot. Senior Alex Fuller and junior Brit Donahue also will be attackers.

"Offensively we are more of a motion offense moving to space and always trying to create a two-on-one," said Welsh, whose team opened last Wednesday against Thomas Worthington and plays Monday at Hilliard Darby and Wednesday at home against Liberty. "We feel that our offense is starting out well."

Junior Kenny Macauley will lead the midfield with junior John Haynes and sophomore Logan Coyle. The defense is led by senior David Stone and junior Evan Matsumoto with Matt Schaublin in goal.

Also on the roster are seniors Jared Allen, Zach Sandusky and Jacob Stranges and juniors Eric Soller and Kyle Watson, sophomores Scott Collins, Steven Cowles, Logan Coyle, Gunner Dircks, Justin Hairston, Brendan Sullivan and freshman Danny Bichsel, Eric Eichhorn, Casey Fujimoto, Jeremy Schocken, Bill Whitesmith and Kory Watson.

•South beat both Central and North last year to win the first Westerville Champion Cup.

The Wildcats finished 7-10 overall after losing to Dublin Scioto 16-5 in the first round of the Division I tournament.

The Wildcats lost 10 graduates from that team. The key to this season will be finding the depth to complement a solid senior class led by Mack Morris, who is expected to play at Otterbein next season, and Matt King, who will continue his career at Wheeling Jesuit.

"We have seniors on the field who have a lot of varsity experience," said coach Michael Kinney, whose team opens Saturday at New Albany against Naperville (Ill.) Neuqua Valley and plays Sunday at New Albany against Creve Coeur (Mo.) DeSmet Jesuit before playing at Olentangy on Wednesday.

"But we also have so many sophomores who are playing varsity. They've lost that extra year of jv because we need them up on varsity. A lot of guys are getting used to the speed of varsity."

Other top returnees are seniors James Jeffers, Rickey Rano and junior Brent Gonzales. Also on the team are seniors Steven Crawmer, Colin Hunley, Matt Lease, Nick Roccos, Anthony Tanzillo and Christopher Walls and juniors Jack Edgecomb, Cameron Gessner, Zack Ingram and Jarrod Will.

Also on the roster are sophomores Jeffery Haney, Ryan Haugh, Kyle Hoggarth, Alex McCambridge, Zeid Rawahneh and Nick Snyder and freshmen Brandon Boll, Lucas Gall, Zach Gordon, Alec Haugh, Michael King, Caleb Morris, Johnny Nguyen, Justin Paselk and Christian Taylor.

South will seek to find depth without dipping too much into the freshman class. Gordon already is expected to play a key role on the defense alongside Snyder, who is making the move to the defense from the midfield.

"We have a tremendous amount of freshmen," Kinney said. "But they're only freshmen. You can't just throw them out to the wolves."

At a glance

CENTRAL

•Coach: Marc Ayle, fourth season

•Opener: Saturday at Dublin Scioto

•Key players: Tanner Ayle, Bill Calpin, Garrett Curtis, Kamren Curtis, Jake Marburger, Zach Swick and Matt Taflan

NORTH

•Coach: Tom Welsh, first season

•Next game: Monday at Hilliard Darby

•Key players: Drew Hathaway, Greg Hopkins, Kenny Macauley, Evan Matsumoto and David Stone

SOUTH

•Coach: Michael Kinney, second season

•Opener: Saturday at New Albany vs. Naperville (Ill.) Neuqua Valley

•Key players: Brent Gonzalez, James Jeffers, Matt King, Mack Morris and Ricky Rano