The Thomas Worthington High School girls lacrosse team has gone 69-27-2 over the last five years, but advanced beyond a Division I regional final once, losing to Cleveland Heights 14-11 in a state semifinal in 2006.

The Thomas Worthington High School girls lacrosse team has gone 69-27-2 over the last five years, but advanced beyond a Division I regional final once, losing to Cleveland Heights 14-11 in a state semifinal in 2006.

Coach Ally McCarthy believes this year the Cardinals have the perfect opportunity to get to the state tournament.

"We have incredible leadership this year," said McCarthy, whose team will open against visiting Worthington Kilbourne on Tuesday. "We have a group of seniors who are incredibly talented and they've set the tone for everything."

In the past, Thomas was in the same region as Upper Arlington (four state championships in the last seven years), Cincinnati Sycamore (one championship) and Columbus Academy. This year, Thomas is in North Region District 3 with Westerville Central, Westerville North, Olentangy Liberty, Medina, Perrysburg, Perrysburg and Toledo St. Ursula. UA and Sycamore remain in South Region and Academy is in Division II.

Senior Michaela Cook, junior Rachel Hawkins and sophomore Lily Yednock will lead the defense, with senior Maddy Smith and sophomore Jenny Danko competing for time in goal.

"Michaela is the anchor of the defense," McCarthy said. "We're quick and play a scrappy style of defense. We have a lot of experience and knowledge back there to direct the defense."

Thomas returns players who combined to score 289 goals last year. Seniors Tara Benninger (75 goals, 38 assists), Liz Heinze (8 goals, 8 assists), Anna Geissbuhler (71 goals, 30 assists), Hannah Tikson (42 goals, 21 assists), Stephanie Little (39 goals, 18 assists) and Megan Strasser (21 goals, 4 assists) and sophomores Tierney Ford (20 goals, 7 assists) and Catie Sheban (3 goals, 5 assists) are back.

Thomas finished 13-5 last year after losing to UA 19-12 in a regional championship. Thomas finished 6-1 in the OCC-Buckeye Division behind UA (7-0) and ahead of Kilbourne (5-2), Dublin Jerome (4-3), Dublin Coffman (3-4), Dublin Scioto (1-5-1), Hilliard Darby (0-5-2) and Hilliard Davidson (0-6-1).

"A lot of the girls have been on successful teams in the past," McCarthy said. "They have the passion, the heart and the skill to drive the team this season."

• Kilbourne coach Doug Troutner believes the Wolves can have just as potent an attack as they did a year ago, when they averaged 12.5 goals and finished 15-5.

The Wolves return seniors Margaret Wolford (61 goals, 42 assists), Sarah Capella (29 goals, 15 assists) and Kelly Phillips (20 goals, 9 assists) and junior Katherine O'Harra (21 goals, 2 assists) to the attack.

The loss of graduate Vanessa Scott (66 goals, 19 assists), however, will be felt.

"Last year we scored about two-thirds of our goals off (a give-and-go between Wolford and Scott). This year we've tried that play in scrimmages and were not nearly as effective with it," said Troutner, whose team will open against visiting Hartley today and Mason on Saturday before visiting Thomas on Tuesday. "We've tweaked the offense a little and there are some things we need to work on, but having an experienced attack should make a big difference."

Juniors Marissa Minichello (20 goals, 9 assists), Molly Burton (4 goals, 2 assists) and Shelby Wolff and sophomore Kelly Barford (12 goals, 2 assists) should set up the offense. Kilbourne will be helped by the addition of Naomi Negoro, an exchange student from Japan, and freshman Meredith Schram.

"Right now we have a lot of speed and a lot of good athletic individuals," Troutner said. "Last year with a majority of them being sophomores, they lacked experience and confidence. This year they're going to help with whatever they can."

Junior Kat Elkins is out to replace graduate Kiersten Pasternak (171 saves) in goal. Elkins had 18 saves as a backup last year. Senior Kelsie Scudder, juniors Tori Nourse, Leslie Stovall, Maddie Taghon and Zoubaida Benzegala and junior Colleen Hile are expected back to the defense.

"At this point, it's going to come down to what we can do offensively," Troutner said. "Our defensive unit is pretty much the same as last year with the exception of goalie, but Kat and Kiersten are very similar players."

At a glance

KILBOURNE

•Coach: Doug Troutner, 18th season

•Opener: Today vs. Hartley

•Key players: Sarah Capella, Kat Elkins, Marissa Minichello, Katherine O'Harra, Kelly Phillips, Kelsie Scudder and Margaret Wolford

THOMAS

•Coach: Ally McCarthy, fifth season

•Opener: Tuesday vs. Kilbourne

•Key players: Tara Benninger, Michaela Cook, Anna Geissbuhler, Liz Heinze and Hannah Tikson