Although first-year Pickerington High School Central girls lacrosse coach Brian Walton admits this season could feature some rebuilding, he thinks one of the Tigers' strengths could be a direct result of the stellar talent that has come through the program in recent years.

Central has lost three 200-goal scorers in as many years to graduation, including the program's all-time leading scorer in Lauren Morris a year ago, but returns two of its top scorers from a year ago in senior attacker Maddi Hyer and sophomore attacker/midfielder Maddie Morrell.

"I'm not sure I'd call it a strength, but what I like about this team is we have a lot of hungry girls who have been in the shadows the past few years but are champing at the bit to show what they can do," Walton said. "I'm not sure how many programs in central Ohio have even had one 200-plus career goal scorer, let alone three in three years (Nessa Petropavlovski in 2015, Kat Walton in 2016 and Morris). We had a lot of firepower during their time. However, during that time, several of our current players had to sit on the bench or play a secondary role. These girls are eager to show what they can do now that they have an opportunity to step out of the shadows."

Last season, Hyer had 46 goals and 14 assists and Morrell added 24 goals and five assists as Central went 9-9 overall and 5-1 in the OCC-Central Division and lost to Dublin Jerome 20-3 in a Division I, Region 3 quarterfinal.

Morris scored 99 of her 230 career goals last season.

The Tigers return two other starters in senior midfielder Dani Rehm, a Capital recruit, and senior defender Kierra Stefanitsis.

Central was 3-1 overall before playing Hilliard Darby on March 28. The Tigers opened with a 7-6 loss at Beavercreek on March 16 and lost 13-6 at Dublin Scioto on March 20 before beating Westerville South 15-0 on March 24 and Watterson 12-11 on March 26 in their home opener.

Walton replaced Maggie Bornhorst, who was 38-15-1 in three seasons at Central and now coaches at Bexley.

Walton was an assistant coach in the program the past five seasons and has coached lacrosse at various levels in Pickerington since 2006. He also has coached in the football program since 2003 and currently coaches the seventh-grade team at Ridgeview Junior High School.

Stefanitsis, junior Lindy Brobeck and sophomore Makenna Logan will lead a defense that also includes senior Nicole Moran, juniors Maya Matteson and Maddy Shirer, sophomore Kennedy Matthews and freshman Tatum McElwain.

Matteson, Matthews, Moran and Shirer previously played in the midfield and might move back there occasionally.

Rounding out the roster are seniors Nadine El Barrad (goalkeeper), Megan Killilea (attacker) and Spencer Klautky (goalie), juniors Kelsea Friedheim (attacker), Brooke Morgan (attacker) and Dylan Smith (attacker), sophomores Frankie Moore (defender), Arianna Olama (attacker/defender), Tatianna Rivera (defender) and Aja Roberts (attacker) and freshmen Brynna Bosworth (attacker), Camille Hedd (defender), Genevieve Kohler (attacker), Megan Lang (attacker), Hope Morgan (defender), Grace Osborn (midfielder), Riley Smith (attacker/midfielder) and Reilly Stone (midfielder).

Central begins OCC-Central play April 5 at Upper Arlington in a matchup of the top two teams in the league from a year ago. The Golden Bears finished 6-0 in the OCC-Central and went on to win their third consecutive Division I state championship.

"Right now, we're just working on our continuity and chemistry," Walton said. "At times in the preseason, we were a little disjointed. We expect to get better as the season goes on and the players gain experience and get used to playing together."

Boys lacrosse team off to rough start

First-year boys lacrosse coach Garyck Todd hopes a 12-goal outburst in the season opener is indicative of things to come for his experienced team, even though Central lost its next three games.

Seniors Ethan Barnhouse, Mark Carberry and Ben Riggs return to lead the attack and seniors Ryan Grumman and Dom Rocco, a Capital recruit, are back on defense for the Tigers, who were 1-3 overall before their home opener against Scioto on March 27.

Carberry had 10 of Central's 28 goals through four games. Senior midfielder Tyler Coyan, a Walsh University recruit, had six goals, and Riggs and junior midfielder Owen Henry scored four each.

The Tigers opened March 17 with a 12-8 win over Hilliard Bradley in the Ohio Machine High School Showcase at Fortress Obetz before losing to Hilliard Darby (10-1 on March 20), Cincinnati Sycamore (10-6 on March 23) and Centerville (12-9 on March 24).

"Our biggest strength this year is the experience we have returning at all positions on the field," Todd said. "Unfortunately, we lost (junior attacker) Morgan Morrell due to an injury early in the season. It's always hard when you lose a dynamic player like Morgan, but I believe that the team has really rallied around him and kept a positive attitude."

Morrell led Central in goals (36) and assists (11) last season as Central finished 7-11 overall and 3-4 in the OCC-Central and lost to Pickerington North 12-5 in the second round of the Division I, Region 3 tournament.

Last season, Carberry had 25 goals, Henry had 13 and Coyan scored 11.

Todd, a 2012 Central graduate, replaced Lou Fries, who stepped down after one season. Todd played for Wilmington College from 2013-16 and was the Tigers' assistant head coach last season.

Rounding out the roster are seniors Christian Crow (faceoff specialist) and Jonah Pool (midfielder), juniors Joey Adornetto (midfielder), Travis Allasi (midfielder), Evan Burgess (midfielder), Caleb Casto (long-stick midfielder), Brendan Chong (goalie), Mike Moore (attacker), Liam Murphy (midfielder) and Nate Shultz (midfielder), sophomores Garret Huffman (defender), Dominic Marasco (defender) and Kaelin Tran (long-stick midfielder) and freshmen Josh Beach (attacker), Blake Benson (defender), Harrison Berger (attacker), Vince Burre (midfielder), John Goetsch (midfielder), Jacob Kelly (midfielder), Chase Lagore (attacker), Justin Myers (long-stick midfielder), Jacob Poole (faceoff specialist), Alex Rowles (midfielder), Max Schillig (goalie), A.J. Terbovich (attacker) and Tyler Turnbull (defender).

Central begins OCC-Central play April 5 at UA.

"At this point, I'm very happy with how our team is performing," Todd said. "One area we can significantly improve is staying out of the (penalty) box. Playing physical and aggressive is great. We just have to learn to dial it in in certain situations."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Schedules

BOYS LACROSSE

March 17 -- at Hilliard Bradley

March 20 -- at Hilliard Darby

March 23 -- at Cincinnati Sycamore

March 24 -- at Centerville

March 27 -- vs. Dublin Scioto

April 3 -- at New Albany

*April 5 -- at Upper Arlington

*April 10 -- vs. Dublin Coffman

*April 12 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson

*April 17 -- at Gahanna

April 19 -- vs. Westerville North

*April 24 -- vs. Newark

*April 26 -- at Marysville

May 1 -- vs. Watterson

*May 4 -- vs. Pickerington North

May 8 -- vs. Westerville Central

GIRLS LACROSSE

March 16 -- at Beavercreek

March 20 -- at Dublin Scioto

March 24 -- at Westerville South

March 26 -- vs. Watterson

March 28 -- at Hilliard Darby

April 2 -- at Westerville North

*April 5 -- vs. Upper Arlington

*April 10 -- at Dublin Coffman

*April 12 -- at Hilliard Davidson

April 13 -- vs. Olentangy Orange

*April 17 -- vs. Gahanna

*April 26 -- vs. Marysville

April 27 -- vs. Columbus School for Girls

April 30 -- vs. Granville

*May 4 -- vs. Pickerington North

May 8 -- vs. Westerville Central

May 10 -- at Olentangy

*League contest

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

BASEBALL

March 31 -- At Alpharetta (Ga.) King's Ridge Christian (DH)

*April 2 -- Home vs. Pickerington North

*April 4 -- At Pickerington North

SOFTBALL

March 30-31 -- At Clarksville (Tenn.)

April 3 -- At Olentangy

BOYS TENNIS

March 29 -- At Watkins Memorial

April 3 -- Home vs. Westerville South

April 4 -- Home vs. Chillicothe

TRACK & FIELD

March 31 -- Wildcat Premier at Hilliard Davidson

April 3 -- At Dublin Jerome with Hilliard Darby

BOYS VOLLEYBALL

*April 3 -- Home vs. Dublin Coffman

*League contest