The Westerville North High School boys lacrosse team entered the season with what it believes are attainable goals.
The Warriors are closing in on a program milestone of 100 wins, as they had 94 before opening March 26 against Wesley Chapel (Fla.) Wiregrass Ranch at St. Leo (Fla.) University.
North is hoping to win the OCC-Central Division title after tying Westerville Central for fourth (3-3) last season behind champion Pickerington Central (6-0).
The Warriors also would like to retain the Westerville Cup, which is awarded each season to the team that wins the series among Westerville schools. Last season, North went 3-0 against Central and South.
"We want to win the OCC, win the Westerville Cup and advance past the (first) round of the (postseason)," said Ford, whose team finished 11-9 overall last season after losing to eventual state champion Upper Arlington 15-2 in the first round of the Division I Central Region tournament.
North defeated South 15-3 in a play-in game.
The Warriors' top returnees include junior attacker Cody Fisher (39 goals, 11 assists) and junior goalkeeper Will Newton (215 saves).
Newton and seniors Jordan Hicks (attacker), Jared McAfee (midfielder) and Reed Palur (defender) are captains.
"We have a lot of work to do, but I think we'll get there," Palur said. "I have a lot of responsibility this year. I'm excited to help out."
Other returning players are seniors James Thompson (midfielder) and Ben Perryman (midfielder), juniors Walt Chafin (defender), Tony Du (midfielder), Drew Dutson (defender) and Jorden Messmer (midfielder) and sophomore Austin Popovich (midfielder).
Others looking to contribute are senior Brandon Rodgers (defender), junior Chris Robinson (attacker), sophomores Kyle Arnholt (midfielder), Spencer Dutson (goalie), George Matthews (midfielder), Quinn Nicodemus (midfielder), Nick Orioli (attacker), and Taylor Warren (attacker) and freshmen Michael Bayda (attacker), Tommy Bichsel (attacker), Parker Hicks (attacker), Nick Olson (midfielder), Keeton Rafferty (defender), Jeff Stone (midfielder), Nickel Thompson (defender) and Kyle Weisgerber (goalie).
Nicodemus is a transfer from South.
"Looking at the comparison from the last two years, we're young," Ford said. "We have a good mix of youth and returners."
The Warriors lost eight players from last year to graduation, including midfielder and face-off specialist Peter Sandvik, who was first-team all-league after leading the team in scoring with 46 goals and 29 assists.
The 2013 senior class also included attacker Ryan Buck, who was second-team all-league with 35 goals and 21 assists, and defender Adam Gray, who was honorable mention all-league.
Central hoping for better record
Central began its second season under coach Keith Copeland looking to improve on last season's 7-12 record.
"We had a very deep defense behind our defensive guy (2013 graduate Matt Collins) ... so that was probably the easiest replacement," Copeland said. "We have a lot of midfielders as well, so that's not a difficult replacement. Attack is probably are biggest shoes to fill, but we have guys who can do it."
The Warhawks opened March 24 against Louisville (Ky.) Collegiate.
A key player should be senior midfielder Cameron Fry, who had 11 goals and seven assists last season and was honorable mention all-league. He missed part of the preseason with a sprained right ankle, but is expected to return early in the season.
"We have a lot of potential this year," Fry said. "There's a lot of newbies out there, but I think we'll be fine."
Senior goalie Nick Bradburn had 223 saves last season, while junior attacker Brooks Burton had 29 goals and 20 assists and senior attacker Bobby Zimmerer had 18 goals and 30 assists.
Copeland also expects scoring from junior attacker Trenton Kindall.
Senior defender David Alexander was first-team all-league last season.
Alexander, Bradburn, Burton and Fry are captains.
Other returnees are seniors Cole Cox (defender), Sean Hanley (defender), Conor Hollern (midfielder) and Tyler Ramsey (midfielder), juniors Jake Mostyn (defender) and Connor Syfko (midfielder) and sophomores Quinn Hanley (midfielder), Justin Nguyen (goalie), Kyle Shepard (midfielder), Augie West (defender) and Dante York (defender).
Other players are senior Chris Falcone (defender), sophomores Danny Calpin (attacker), Noah Jones (attacker) and Logan McManamon (midfielder) and freshmen Hunter Hudgins (midfielder) and Wilson Misiuk (midfielder).
Also lost to graduation were attacker C.J. Naples, who led the team in scoring with 61 goals and three assists and was first-team all-league, and midfielder Mitchell Radigan, who had 20 goals and 19 assists and was second-team all-league.
South dealing with low numbers
Although it may lack depth, second-year South coach Mike Norman said his team returns a good amount of experience.
The Wildcats have 16 players available and will not field junior varsity or freshmen teams.
"Numbers are down, but the kids are remaining positive," Norman said. "They've come out and they're working really hard in practice. Their focus hasn't changed. We knew going in we had low numbers."
Last season, South finished 3-15 overall and 0-6 in the OCC-Central.
The Wildcats open Sunday, March 30, at Wheeling (W.Va.) Park.
Seniors Benjamin Gregory (defender), Luke Rapp (goalie), Austin See-Cook (attacker) and Nick Yavorsky (attacker) are captains.
"We have a chance of doing big things as long as we stay positive and just keep working hard and taking good steps," Gregory said. "We're led by a good senior class. I like the small numbers. It just makes us work harder. It means every time we're on the field we're going to push harder (and) every possession counts."
Senior Tyler Killilea (midfielder) and sophomore Nick Leonard (defender) also return.
Other players are senior Christian Morales (midfielder), juniors Colton Morris (defender), Connor Svendsen (midfielder) and Nicholas Vermaaten (midfielder) and freshmen Isaac Bumgarner (midfielder), Braden Elam (midfielder), Sammy Mansour (defender), Alex Rebmann (midfielder), Giovanni Rossantelli (midfielder) and Victor Runyon (defender).
Junior Will Summers (midfielder) is expected to miss the season with a stress fracture in a leg, Norman said.
Senior attacker Kane Wollmuth, who Norman said was a key offensive threat last season, did not return.
Norman is hoping the reformation of a boys lacrosse team at Blendon Middle School eventually will help South.