The Thomas Worthington and Worthington Kilbourne high school girls lacrosse teams usually have their annual matchup late in the regular season.

The Thomas Worthington and Worthington Kilbourne high school girls lacrosse teams usually have their annual matchup late in the regular season.

This season, however, the Cardinals and Wolves open against each other in an OCC-Buckeye Division game on Monday, March 26, at Kilbourne.

"It's kind of weird," Kilbourne senior midfielder Carly Cameron said. "That's normally our last game of the year, but it's a good test to see how good our team really is."

The Cardinals have won six of the last seven meetings, including a 14-13 win last year. The Wolves' lone win during that stretch was a 17-9 victory in 2010.

"Kilbourne is certainly going to be a team to watch," Thomas coach Ally McCarthy said. "They have very talented athletes who are very well coached."

"In the past, it was something to look forward to," Kilbourne coach Doug Troutner said of the games against Thomas. "Now it's a good way to see where we are."

Thomas eager to face OCC-Buckeye challenges

Thomas finished 14-5 overall last season and went 3-2 in the OCC-Buckeye to place third, behind New Albany (5-0) and Upper Arlington (4-1) and ahead of Kilbourne (2-3), Dublin Coffman (1-4) and Hilliard Darby (0-5).

The Cardinals lost to New Albany 11-10 and lost to UA 11-7. New Albany ended up losing to Medina 14-7 in a Division I state semifinal and UA lost to Medina 14-13 in double overtime in the state final.

"We do like challenging games," said McCarthy, who is in her eighth year coaching the Cardinals. "We're going to have some very challenging games within that division."

Thomas defeated Olentangy Liberty 21-10 in the first round of the North/Central Region tournament and beat Toledo St. Ursula 9-4 in a regional semifinal before losing to Hudson 17-4 in a regional final.

The Cardinals are looking to replace five 2011 graduates who scored 20 or more goals last year in Lilly Yednock (40 goals, 12 assists), Caitie Sheban (34 goals, 8 assists), Tierney Ford (37 goals, 14 assists), Kendall Gordon (23 goals, 6 assists) and Amber McAlpine (20 goals, 7 assists).

Seniors Mackenzie Bogaards, Maggie McCloskey and Melissa Scheuering and junior Hannah Heinke-Green are competing for playing time at attack, and seniors Taylor Brady, Kieran Ford and Sam Kuehnl, junior Tonycia Melfe and sophomores Liza Carey, Devan Chakroff, Mara Sheban and Jasmin Singh are vying for time in the midfield.

"We had to go back to the basics," McCarthy said. "We focused on passing the ball around and creating space. Our offense is made up of very unselfish players who work very well together as a team."

Senior Crystal Dershem and sophomore Faith Mahnke are competing to replace 2011 graduate Jenny Danko (416 career saves) at goalkeeper. Junior Carly Porteus and sophomores Claire Durfee and Abby Strasser are expected to be the top defenders.

Kilbourne focused on winning

Kilbourne finished 10-8 overall last season and finished fourth in the OCC-Buckeye.

The Wolves defeated Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame 17-9 in the first round of the South/Central Region tournament before losing to New Albany 19-4 in a regional semifinal. Last season, Kilbourne was 5-2 in games decided by fewer than five goals.

"Games like that always help build confidence," said Troutner, who is in his 21st season coaching the Wolves. "We don't get nervous in situations like that. We know we have the ability to make things happen."

Seniors Savannah Coen, Lindsay Hoskins and Mariah Minichello, sophomore Kara Hines and freshman Miriam Bassani are competing for playing time at attack, and Cameron, senior Meredith Schram, junior Alycia Kingcade and freshmen Maggie Baumgardner and Allison Martz are vying for time in the midfield.

"This year I feel like our entire team has bonded as a whole," Cameron said. "Everyone wants to win this year."

Junior Alex Malone returns at goalkeeper and juniors Gabi Gonzalez, Lexi Walton and Maria Whitesel and freshman Kaitlin Troutner are the team's top defenders.

"Right now, the challenge is putting the pieces together," coach Troutner said. "Players may have a lot of individual skills, but now it is a matter of getting those skills to work with the rest of the team."