Don't tell the 14 sophomores on the New Albany High School girls lacrosse team they are overachievers.
That grade level is not necessarily indicative of their experience. Nine sophomores start, almost all of them play extensively in the offseason and one of them already has committed to continue her career at Ohio State after scoring almost 50 goals as a freshman.
"I think we're performing at the level we think we can," sophomore defender Erin Carson said. "And there's still room for improvement."
Classmate Emily Rezabek had 20 goals and seven assists through eight games, in which the Eagles were 7-1 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Buckeye Division and ranked sixth in the Midwest by U.S. Lacrosse Magazine.
Carson and Rezabek, a midfielder, usually are joined in the starting lineup by defenders Valentina DiLorenzo, Addyson Koterba and Regan Roteff, attackers Blythe Ferguson and Zoe Kellerman and midfielders Alyssa Kneedler and Chloe Platte.
"They are a committed, close class," coach Dave Ferguson said. "The neat thing about them is the work ethic they have in the offseason. They play a lot and they lift a lot. Everybody has. That's the culture. That goes through everybody on this team. ...
"These girls earn the respect through their play on the field. They are highly regarded. We are excited; we're balanced and we have good depth, and I think we match up well with just about anybody we see."
Rezabek, the Ohio State recruit, recorded 48 goals and 18 assists as a freshman, helping lead New Albany to a Division I state semifinal. Carson started as a defender last year.
Kneedler is a move-in from Pickerington North, where she scored a team-best 47 goals for the Panthers as a freshman. She had eight goals through seven games this season.
Rounding out the sophomore class are attackers Liz Beckner, Grace Hoover, Margeaux LaJeunesse and Lauren Sokol and defender Sarah Zinsmeister.
"We are a really young team and we have a long way to go, but given what I've seen in some of our tougher games, I think we do have what it takes to contend for a state championship," Rezabek said. "We've had a hard time jelling occasionally, but we have come together well.
"Our class is a really strong class. We all play club in the summer. Most of us are on the same page, and if somebody isn't, we set examples for each other."
Gracie Pine led the Eagles in goals with 24 through eight games and had four assists through seven. Molly Berend had 19 goals through eight games. Berend and Pine are the Eagles' only seniors.
Carson, Ferguson, Kneedler, Koterba and Rezabek are teammates with the Midwestern Force club team. Several Eagles teammates play club for Lucky Lax or Resolute.
New Albany continued its season April 18 against league foe Olentangy.
The Eagles outscored their opponents 105-50 through eight games.
"We (on the defense) are working on our slides and limiting opponents' chances," Carson said, also crediting last year's upperclassmen for helping introduce the current sophomores to varsity. "All the seniors and juniors were welcoming last year. They helped us adapt really well. I think we're doing a good job of incorporating every one into the plays because we have strong driving skills. We can trust anybody on the field having the ball."
The baseball team began a key OCC-Capital back-to-back against Canal Winchester on April 17, and coach Dave Starling said "lights-out" pitching was a primary reason why the Eagles entered that game tied atop the league with the Indians.Video •Watch the final play of the New Albany baseball team's 1-0 win over Groveport on April 12.
Freshman Kevin Fee started 3-0 with 13 strikeouts, one walk and a 0.00 ERA through 19 2/3 innings, and junior Alex Arenschield was 3-1 with a 3.56 ERA, 10 strikeouts and eight walks in 19 2/3 innings before the Eagles' 10-3 win over Big Walnut on April 13.
"Our pitching has been lights out," Starling said. "(Fee) has three pitches he's done a good job of mastering -- his fastball, curveball and changeup. They're as good as I've seen. He can be something special.
"Alex is a bulldog on the mound. He can get into a tough situation and you don't have to worry about him and his focus. He'll pound it right into the zone."
Fee also helped produce the winning run in a 1-0 victory over Groveport on April 12. Fee hit a bouncer to shortstop in the seventh inning, and the throw home was mishandled by the catcher, allowing Ben Bohman to score.
New Albany was 9-2 overall and 6-0 in the OCC-Capital before April 17. Canal Winchester also came in at 6-0 in the league.
The Eagles averaged 6.9 runs through their first 10 games. Fee had a team-best .448 batting average, ahead of Charlie Cush (.433) and Sam Blaha (.429).
New Albany's one-run win over Groveport came two days after it run-ruled the Cruisers 13-1 in five innings.
"I have been thrilled with our offensive production," Starling said. "We have had tremendous at-bats and they are starting to get it. Their mental approach to hitting is a lot better than it was last year. You don't have to tell these guys things twice. (In the second game against Groveport), we just hit line drives right at people."
Softball team beset
by close losses
The softball team began OCC-Capital play last week with two one-run losses in as many days, 7-6 at Newark on April 12 and 5-4 to Big Walnut on April 13.
Taylor Rhea had a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh against the Golden Eagles, but New Albany got no closer.
The Eagles were 2-5 overall before playing Canal Winchester on April 19.
Nine New Albany student-athletes announced their college decisions April 12.
Carson Barnes will swim at Oakland, Riley Cackovich will row at Mercyhurst, Alex Cash will play tennis at Carnegie Mellon, Will Green will play lacrosse at Alma, Devin Mahoney will play football at Marietta, Austin Masturzo will golf at John Carroll, Taylor Selby will play tennis at Eckerd, Nate Skowron will play football at Hanover and Jessica Zaper will swim at Ashland.