Shannon Dornfeld found herself in a weird place when the Pickerington High School North girls lacrosse team played host to Dublin Coffman on April 27.

With the Panthers' top two goalkeepers hurt, Dornfeld -- usually a midfielder -- found herself in goal for the first time in almost five years, since she was in sixth grade.

"For our upperclassmen, it was weird because we've had Jess (Pinkerton) as our goalie for three years and she's always been a rock," said Dornfeld, who allowed nine goals in the first half of a 17-9 loss. "It was a huge change not having her back there, and when you're in the goal, it's a little intimidating having balls coming right at you. But the team needed me, and I wanted to do anything I could to help."

In doing so, Dornfeld became an example of how she described the team's mindset during a trying season. North was 3-11 overall before playing Westerville South on May 9, and brings a 1-4 record in the OCC-Central Division into its regular-season finale Friday, May 12, at home against Pickerington Central.

"The overall mindset has changed tremendously," said Dornfeld, who again played goal during a 16-4 loss to Columbus School for Girls on May 4. "A lot of girls didn't want to step up and play varsity because they were freshmen or sophomores and they were scared out of their minds. I don't blame them. It's something they were new to, but they toughed it out mentally and stepped up to the plate."

North's wins before May 9 were against Dublin Scioto (9-7 on April 4), Marysville (14-6 on April 25) and Fairmont, West Virginia (13-12 on May 6).

"The mindset of the team (has improved), but also our goals have changed," senior midfielder Kelleigh Huey said. "Because this season hasn't turned out like we planned -- we have 10 girls injured -- our goals have switched from having a great season to improving the freshmen and underclassmen where they want to be, helping continue our legacy."

In her third year as a full-time starter, Huey has played every position except goalie. She went to the attack earlier this season to fill in for injured players.

The usual starters on attack have been Gia Chiudioni, Lauren Kropf, Sydnee Saska and Abby Wilson.

"We've had a lot of people coming in and out, but they've adjusted well to playing with us even if they usually play j.v.," said Kropf, a first-year starter. "We are using our games to help us know what we need to work on, and we just apply that to practice."

The game against Central concludes a stretch of four games in nine days, all at home, to end the regular season.

North then will begin the Division I, Region 3 tournament Monday, May 15, at fifth-seeded Coffman. The Panthers are seeded 11th of 15 teams.

The winner will visit fourth-seeded Watterson or 13th-seeded Hilliard Bradley in a quarterfinal May 19.

Central has won three consecutive games against the Panthers, including 14-8 last year, and leads the all-time series 3-2.

"It's a big night for us," Huey said. "The whole experience is really awesome. The rivalry is big with us. I think we are evenly matched this year. It should be a good game."

Softball team wins
tournament opener

Maddi Mushill of the softball team made her season debut a memorable one, as her sixth-inning single scored the game-winning run May 8 in 23rd-seeded North's 11-8 win over visiting and 33rd-seeded Olentangy Orange in the first round of the Division I district tournament.

Carley Auten and Shelby Baker homered for the Panthers, who scored five runs in the sixth.

Mushill, a senior third baseman, missed the first 21 games with multiple right-leg injuries, including a torn ligament, slight tears to her MCL and meniscus and a fractured femur.

"I had my doctor's appointment (May 5) and got cleared," Mushill said. "Our goal is to score every inning. If we did that, we were confident we could come back. I got an offspeed pitch outside and drove it."

The Panthers improved to 8-14 and visited seventh-seeded Hilliard Davidson in a second-round game May 10. That winner likely plays 10th-seeded Marysville in a district semifinal Monday, May 15, at a neutral site to be determined, with the winner advancing to a district final May 19 or 20 at Pickerington Central.

North did not play Marysville during the regular season.

North finished 2-8 in the OCC-Ohio. The Panthers went 1-2 overall and in the league last week, defeating Reynoldsburg 14-6 on May 2 and losing two games to Grove City the next day, 7-1 in the completion of a suspended game from April 20 and 8-6 in the regularly scheduled game.

Baseball team begins
tourney with win

If the baseball team is to make another deep run in the postseason, it likely will do so as an underdog almost every step of the way.

North began the Division I district tournament on a high note, scoring nine runs in the first inning of its first-round game May 8 to rout visiting and 40th-seeded Briggs 14-0 in five innings. The Panthers advanced to visit fourth-seeded Thomas Worthington in a second-round game May 10.

The second-round winner will play 16th-seeded Zanesville or 18th-seeded Westerville Central in a district semifinal Monday, May 15, at a neutral site to be determined, with that winner likely playing fifth-seeded Canal Winchester or 11th-seeded Olentangy Orange in a district final Wednesday, May 17, at a neutral site to be determined.

The district champion advances to a regional semifinal May 25 at Coffman.

North lost to Canal Winchester 10-4 and 10-7 in a doubleheader April 15.

The Panthers were 8-15 overall before playing Thomas and finished 5-9 in the OCC-Ohio. Their May 5 game at Grove City was canceled because of bad weather, and according to North athletics director Molly Feesler, the game will not be made up.

Boys tennis team
set for sectional

The boys tennis team will compete in a Division I sectional tournament Thursday, May 11, and Saturday, May 13, at Central.

Christian Keen, Evan Ross and Grant Schroeder will play singles for the Panthers. Balakrishna Brahmandam and Sam Marrison will comprise one doubles team and Vamsi Vanguri and David Wang will comprise the other.

The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to the district tournament May 18 at Davidson and May 20 at Upper Arlington.

North was 10-7 overall before a scheduled May 9 match against New Albany was postponed because of a scheduling conflict. The Panthers' final scheduled regular-season match is Tuesday, May 16, at Scioto.

North was eliminated from the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association tournament May 6 with a 5-0 loss to UA in a district quarterfinal.

Track teams prep
for league meet

The track and field teams will try to break back into the upper half of the OCC-Ohio at the league meet Thursday, May 11, and Saturday, May 13, at Orange.

Both teams placed fifth in the league last year. The boys scored 79 points to finish behind Central (160), Gahanna (122), Reynoldsburg (119) and Lancaster (105) and ahead of Groveport (33), Newark (24) and Grove City (19) as their six-year string of league titles was snapped, and the girls scored 79.25 points to finish behind Gahanna (173.25), Central (111.25), Lancaster (110.58) and Reynoldsburg (82) and ahead of Groveport (30) and Grove City (22.66).

Groveport and Newark now are in the OCC-Capital.

North's only returning league champion is Jannie Kamara, who will try to defend her title in the girls discus and improve on last year's second-place finish in the shot put.

The Panthers begin competing in the Division I, district 1 meet at Hilliard Darby on Tuesday, May 16, with the preliminaries for the running events, followed by field events May 18 and the finals for the running events May 20.

The top four finishers in each event advance to the regional meet May 24 and 26 at North.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave