With nine seniors who contributed last year, second-year coach Austin Ford believes this could be a turnaround season for the Westerville North High School boys lacrosse team.
Last season, the Warriors finished 6-12 overall after losing to Upper Arlington 11-2 in the first round of the Division I Central Region tournament. North defeated Westerville South 8-7 in overtime in a play-in game, avenging an 11-7 loss during the regular season.
"We have a lot of experience coming back," Ford said. "We have nine seniors with two or three years of varsity experience. Our junior class has definitely stepped up from last year."
The Warriors opened March 26 against Orlando (Fla.) University High School at Champions World Resort in Kissimmee, Fla. They play Orlando (Fla.) Olympia on Friday, March 29, at Champions World Resort and at Ocoee (Fla.) on Saturday, March 30.
Senior defender Joe Willis was first-team all-league last season while senior attacker Mason Belding, who scored 10 goals a year ago, was honorable mention all-league.
Also back are senior attacker Ryan Buck (23 goals, 15 assists), senior midfielder and faceoff specialist Peter Sandvik (15, 9) and senior midfielder Seth Burt (10 goals).
Other returning seniors are Adam Gray (defender), Will Hash (midfielder), Grant Shoemaker (defender) and Mitch Weisgerber (midfielder/faceoffs).
Buck, Burt, Sandvik, Weisgerber and Willis are captains.
Other returnees are juniors Jared McAfee (midfielder/faceoffs), James Thompson (midfielder/faceoffs) and Jacob Horton (midfielder) and sophomores Cody Fisher (attacker) and Brad Soller (attacker).
Ford said Horton missed the preseason with a concussion and would be re-evaluated before the opener.
Ford expects sophomore Will Newton to start in goal in place of 2012 graduate Jeremy Schocken. Last season, Schocken had 226 saves and was second-team all-league.
"Will earned that spot over the summer," Ford said. "He went to some of the best goalie camps in the country."
Also on the team are juniors Jordan Hicks (attacker) and Reed Palur (midfielder), sophomores Walt Chafin (defender), Carson Coyle (midfielder), Drew Dutson (defender), Jorden Messmer (midfielder), Michael Perry (attacker), Tony Su (midfielder), Ehab Omran (defender), Chris Robinson (attacker), Ben Perryman (midfielder/faceoffs) and Brandon Rodgers (midfielder) and freshmen Kyle Arnholt (attacker), Russell Batchelder (defen-der/midfielder), Spencer Dutson (goalie), Brady Griffiths (attacker), George Matthews (attacker), Austin Popovich (midfielder/faceoffs) and Taylor Warren (attacker).
Last season, North tied South for sixth (1-5) in the OCC-Central Division behind Westerville Central, Pickerington Central and Delaware, each of which finished 5-1, and Pickerington North and Big Walnut, each of which finished 2-4.
South has new coach
Mike Norman, who helped form the Olentangy Liberty boys lacrosse program, has replaced Tom Favorito as coach at South.
Favorito resigned following last season to take over the University of Rhode Island men's club lacrosse program.
Last season, the Wildcats finished 5-14 overall after losing to Westerville North in the regional play-in game.
Norman coached at Liberty in 2004 and 2005 and also has coached at the middle school level in Westerville. He remains involved with the Westerville Lacrosse Club.
"Our goals this year are more on processes versus outcomes," said Norman, whose team plays host to Delaware in its opener Wednesday, April 3.
Junior goalkeeper Lucas Rapp made 175 saves last season, and junior midfielder Kane Wollmuth had 14 goals and nine assists.
Other returnees are seniors Dominick Fitzgerald (attacker), Connor Gessner (midfielder) and Zachary Muehlbauer (defender), juniors Benjamin Gregory (defender), Michael Love (goalie), Austin See-Cook (attacker) and Nick Yavorsky (midfielder) and sophomore John Fandrey (defender).
Other players are seniors Ryan Miller (attacker), Antonio Rossantelli (midfielder), John Trainer (defender) and Adam Tucker (defender), juniors Trevor Cain (midfielder), Tyler Killilea (midfielder) and Allesandro Rossantelli (midfielder), sophomores Colton Morris (defender), Quinn Nicodemus (midfielder) and William Summers (midfielder) and freshmen Zackary Cain (midfielder), Tate Howell (defender), Nick Leonard (defender) and Drake Toth (midfielder).
"With me being a new coach and not really knowing a lot of the players, everybody has that opportunity to make that first impression," Norman said.
Central has new leader
Central also has a new coach as Keith Copeland has replaced Marc Ayle, who resigned following last season because of family and work commitments.
Copeland had been an assistant in the program since 2005.
Last season, the Warhawks won their first league title and finished 8-7 overall after losing to Gahanna 15-10 in a play-in game in the Division I Central Region tournament.
Central won the Westerville Cup by defeating South 13-10 and North 10-9 in four overtimes.
"Our goal is certainly to win the league," said Copeland, whose team opened March 26 against Hudson. "Beyond that, a goal of our coaching staff is to win a few of our playoff games. We've won our first playoff game before, but we've never won two. That's kind of a personal goal of ours."
Junior defender David Alexander was first-team all-league last season.
Also back is senior attacker C.J. Naples, who had 39 goals and seven assists and was honorable mention all-league.
Copeland said juniors Nick Bradburn and C.J. Wloszczyna and sophomore Justin Nguyen are competing to start in goal in place of 2012 graduate Isaac Erckert, who had 158 saves last season.
Matt Collins (defender) and Mitchell Radigan (midfielder) are the other seniors on the team.
Collins, Naples and Radigan are captains.
Other players are juniors Cole Cox (defender), Jared Drake (faceoffs), Chris Falcone (defender), Cameron Fry (midfielder), Conor Hollern (attacker/midfielder), Tyler Ramsey (midfielder) and Bobby Zimmerer (attacker) and sophomores Brooks Burton (attacker), Trenton Kindall (defender), Jake Mostyn (midfielder) and Connor Syfko (midfielder).
"We got them to work hard the first couple of weeks," Copeland said. "Our first 10 to 12 guys are the best 10 to 12 guys we've had. ... We have very hard working younger classes as well."