Despite a couple key injuries and a slow start, Stony Burks shows a lot of optimism when discussing his Bexley High School boys lacrosse team.

The second-year coach had an offensive-oriented team last spring with a senior-laden attack, but the Lions now will look to an experienced defense as they try to improve on a 7-9 finish.

Bexley began the season as spring break started, helping to account for a 0-2 start as numerous players were out of town. Burks expected to have his full complement of players March 27 against St. Charles.

"We have an overall solid team this year, and I think it will go a lot further than people think despite starting 0-2," said Burks, whose team lost 15 players from last season to graduation. "The biggest thing is being able to have coachable kids. Once you can discipline kids to listen to you, you can teach them anything."

Senior Owen Rupp is the lone returnee in an attack decimated by injuries.

Senior attacker Zander Kauffman was injured in the opener for the second consecutive year, suffering a season-ending broken collarbone in an 11-10 double-overtime loss to Pickerington North on March 16. Last year, he was lost for the season with a knee injury suffered in a 13-1 opening win over Wellington.

The Lions also are without junior attacker Hunter Hilgeman, who will miss the season with a knee injury suffered during football. Hilgeman had 15 goals, a team-high 20 assists and 38 groundballs last season.

Rupp had both goals in Bexley's 9-2 loss to Hilliard Bradley on March 24, as the Lions fielded a team of more than 75 percent junior varsity players.

"We're definitely still developing at this point," said Rupp, an attacking midfielder who had a team-high 35 goals along with 18 assists last year. "But we are coming along a lot faster than I thought we would. The guys are really doing a good job of picking up their roles."

Defensive coordinator Christian Adkin is happy with the early promise shown by his group.

"All in all we have a pretty strong defense, and they are learning the varsity game," said Adkin, a 2015 Bexley graduate. "They are all determined to play the best they can.

"(Seniors) Austin Sher and Tommy Lee both have made it their responsibility to lead the team and guide the players in a clear direction for the way they need to play. They have taken the team on their backs when needed."

Lee said the experience in the back will play dividends moving forward.

"We have three returning players with me, Austin and (junior) Felix Underwood," Lee said. "We haven't had the full defense together yet (because of spring break), so we can only get better. I think this team is developing and playing together more quickly than it has in the last couple seasons."

Sher likes the course the defense is taking.

"A lot of our (defenders) are back from last year when it took us three or four games to get on the same page," he said. "It should come along a lot more quickly this year. This is definitely one of the closest teams I have been a part of."

Others leading the attack are senior Grant McDermott, juniors Bo Collier and Alec Russo and sophomores Tyler Behl, Carter Brenner, Jack Dawson and Drew Yaffe. Dawson had four goals against North.

Seniors Grant Heilman, Tyler Mitchell and Mason Remeis, all first-year players, are contributing in the midfield and freshman Tyler Owens-Terwilliger is in goal.

Girls lacrosse team features new look

Maggie Bornhorst has inherited a girls lacrosse team that lost 10 players to graduation after going 12-5 overall and losing to DeSales 14-13 in a Division II, Region 7 semifinal last spring.

Bornhorst spent the past three seasons coaching Pickerington Central, which went 9-9 last year. She had a 38-15-1 record with the Tigers and replaced Gillian Thomson, who led the Lions for 12 seasons.

"We will be having a lot of players playing new positions because of the openings left from graduation, and it has been great to see the competition for those spots," said Bornhorst, whose team opened March 27 against Delaware. "I think our speed is our biggest strength as well as the players we bring back on defense."

Returning in the back are seniors Sari Applefeld and Sofia Loeser along with junior Emma Dressel, who is a defensive midfielder. Junior Rose Thomas, sophomore Joanna Howson and freshman Maia Ben-David also play in the midfield.

The Lions will use two goalkeepers in junior Chloe Wasserstrom and sophomore Tessa Ziegler.

"We have a lot back (on defense) from last year and we're excited to utilize their experience," Bornhorst said. "We have a very fast group in the midfield and their strength is moving the ball downfield."

Senior attackers Abby Fisher and Lily Rosenthal look to be the top scoring threats along with attacking midfielders Katie Benedict (sophomore), MacKenzie Cory (junior) and Olivia McDermott (sophomore).

"The girls have all been so willing to learn," Bornhorst said. "They have been excited about learning new things and working hard to become a team."

Bexley tied Watterson for third (4-3) in the Central Independent League last season behind champion DeSales (7-0). Its league opener is April 5 against visiting Columbus Academy.

shennen@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekHennen

Schedules

BOYS LACROSSE

March 16 -- vs. Pickerington North

March 24 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley

March 27 -- at St. Charles

March 29 -- vs. Buckeye Valley

April 3 -- vs. Hilliard Darby

April 11 -- vs. Watterson

April 14 -- vs. Gahanna

April 21 -- at Cincinnati Indian Hill

April 27 -- at Toledo St. Francis

April 30 -- vs. Wellington

May 2 -- at Jonathan Alder

May 4 -- vs. Granville

May 9 -- at Licking Valley

May 11 -- vs. Columbus Academy

GIRLS LACROSSE

March 27 -- at Delaware

March 29 -- at Hilliard Davidson

April 3 -- at Pickerington North

*April 5 -- vs. Columbus Academy

April 7 -- vs. Big Walnut

*April 10 -- at Watterson

April 12 -- at Centennial

*April 17 -- vs. Columbus School for Girls

April 19 -- vs. Westerville Central

*April 24 -- vs. Granville

*April 28 -- vs. Wellington

*May 1 -- at Hartley

*May 3 -- at DeSales

May 5 -- vs. Westerville North

May 8 -- vs. Hilliard Darby

May 11 -- at Hilliard Bradley

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the Bexley baseball, softball, boys tennis and track & field teams:

BASEBALL

March 31 -- Home vs. North Union

*April 2 -- At Whitehall

*April 4 -- Home vs. Whitehall

SOFTBALL

March 29 -- Home vs. Briggs

*April 2 -- At Whitehall

*April 4 -- Home vs. Whitehall

BOYS TENNIS

*April 3 -- Home vs. Whitehall

TRACK & FIELD

March 31 -- Red Raider Relays at London

April 4 -- At Bloom-Carroll with Fairfield Union

*League contest