As the New Albany High School girls lacrosse team drew within three wins of the Division I state championship, the Eagles found little to critique – with the possible exception of draws.

“When the ball goes straight up, sometimes we have trouble grabbing it out of the air. We don’t have a lot of height on our team,” said senior midfielder Gracie Pine, who is 5-foot-7 and has split time on the draw with Alyssa Kneedler and Chloe Platte. “Winning those 50/50 balls will be critical.”

Videos •Check out highlights of the New Albany boys tennis team’s win over Upper Arlington in the OTCA Division I district final May 23. •See high jumper Kenny McDonald’s performance in the Division I regional meet May 24.

Seeded first in Region 1, New Albany took on second-seeded Olentangy Liberty in the regional final May 27. The Eagles sought their sixth win in seven games, the only loss in that stretch coming against two-time defending state champion Upper Arlington, 9-4 on May 4.

That game represented both the Eagles’ fewest goals scored and most allowed before May 27.

New Albany was 17-3 before the regional final.

Coach Dave Ferguson said his rotation of players on the draw has provided varying degrees of success.

“Usually Gracie Pine starts out, then we have Alyssa (Kneedler) and Chloe Platte but we rotate it to whoever’s hot,” Ferguson said. “It’s one of those things that a lot of times we might just be a step ahead or a stop slow when it’s 50/50. We have to do a better job boxing out.”

Other than that, New Albany’s strengths were on full display during a 16-4 rout of visiting and seventh-seeded Perrysburg in a regional semifinal May 23. Pine scored six goals, Molly Berend added three and Zoe Kellerman, Kneedler and Emily Rezabek each scored twice as the Eagles sprinted to a 10-0 halftime lead.

Berend, Ferguson, Pine and Rezabek all cited a fast-break offense and stifling defense as the Eagles’ catalysts all season.

“We have the motto ‘pedal to the metal’ in every game right from the start and we’ve been executing that very well,” Berend said. “We are definitely exceeding expectations. We are very happy with this team. It’s a great group of girls. I know Upper Arlington has a lot of upperclassmen and for us to be where we are with mostly underclassmen makes it pretty awesome that we’ve made it this far.”

Defender Erin Carson said her unit turned a corner during a stretch in late April and early May that included the loss to UA as well as wins over traditional powers Medina (14-2 on April 28), Cincinnati Sycamore (7-5 on May 6) and Liberty (14-7 on May 10).

“We’ve become better at communicating on slides and picking up opponents, and (goalkeeper) Catherine (Ryan) is more experienced so she can tell us what we need to know and direct us,” Carson said, also crediting the midfield play of Kellerman, Kneedler, Pine, Platte and Rezabek. “We have midfielders who are willing to put in an effort on defense, sprint back and help us create a lot of turnovers.”

The regional champion advanced to a state semifinal May 30. The state final is Saturday, June 3, at Ohio Wesleyan.

“The main goal of winning state is a big enough motivation to drive us and continue to make us better,” Rezabek said. “We haven’t let up. We have to take control early in games and not show any mercy.”

Track team’s
McDonald makes state

Kenny McDonald of the boys track and field team will compete in his first Division I state meet Friday, June 2, and Saturday, June 3, at Ohio State when he participates in the long jump.

McDonald finished third (21 feet, 2 1/2 inches) at regional May 24 at Pickerington North. The top four finishers in each event advanced to state.

Teammate Max Frye sought to join McDonald when he participated in the 110-meter hurdles, 300 hurdles and high jump finals May 26.

Also competing but failing to advance was the 1,600 relay, which finished ninth (3:27.58) with Parker Driggs, Frye, Gabe Glenn and Reed Wyant.

Tennis team wins
OTCA district title

The boys tennis team took some momentum into the Division I individual state tournament May 26 and 27 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, as it won the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association district championship May 23 by defeating visiting Upper Arlington 3-2.

New Albany swept all three singles matches in clinching its second consecutive trip to the OTCA state tournament May 28 at Reynoldsburg. The Eagles were 14-2 before playing Toledo St. John’s in a state semifinal.

The winner played Cincinnati Sycamore or Hunting Valley University School in the state final later that day.

Robert Cash defeated Jack Zelezny 6-3, 6-3, Nathan Jose beat Josh Cole 6-2, 6-3 and Graeme Green shut out Elliot Jones 6-0, 6-0.

UA won both doubles matches. Jack Hughes and Nathan Yu beat Alex Cash and Chris Mathes 6-2, 6-1 and Will Reynolds and Jack Schadek edged Alek Jacoby and Ben Yan 7-5, 6-3.

In the individual state tournament, New Albany was represented by Robert Cash in singles and the doubles team of Green and Jose.

Boys lacrosse team
to have new look

Boys lacrosse coach Chris Brown’s sixth and final season at New Albany came to an end May 20 when the fifth-seeded Eagles lost 8-6 to fourth-seeded Hilliard Davidson in a Division I, Region 3 quarterfinal at Hilliard Bradley.

New Albany, which had 11 seniors, finished 13-7 overall. Brown announced his resignation to players and their families after the game.

“This was a very complicated decision for me but my children are getting older by the day and I feel that I need to spend more time with my family,” Brown said. “I will never forget what one of my coaches told me a long time ago – ‘when you are done with this sport, make sure you give back.’ …

“Lacrosse has given so much to me in my lifetime (that) I hope that I was able to give back to the sport even a small fraction of the joy it has given to me.”

Brown, a 2001 Dublin Scioto graduate who played for Ohio State from 2002-05, was 78-43 at New Albany with league championships in 2012 and 2015.

He was an assistant for the Eagles from 2009-12 after coaching New Albany Middle School’s team from 2006-08.

New Albany went 5-2 in the OCC-Buckeye to tie Olentangy and Olentangy Orange for second behind Liberty (7-0) and ahead of Westerville Central (3-4), Westerville North (2-5), Big Walnut (1-6) and Westerville South (0-7).

The Eagles began the 19-team tournament with a 19-9 win over visiting and 12th-seeded Central in a second-round game May 17.

“We thought that we had a good shot to move on and make some noise in the tournament, but unfortunately we just came up a little bit short,” Brown said.

Senior midfielder Andre White and junior long-stick midfielder Chandler Wilson were named first-team all-region. Sophomore defenders Peter Ackley and Luke Muter were second-team all-region, and senior attacker Noah Bressler and junior midfielder Drew Miller were honorable mention all-region.

Other starters expected to return include juniors Matt Huizenga (goalkeeper) and Nathan Reader (attacker) and sophomore Cody Roberts (attacker).

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave