The Hilliard Darby High School boys lacrosse team is hoping that the experience it gained last year will pay dividends this season.
Eight starters return from last season, when the Panthers finished 2-16 overall, went 0-6 in the OCC-Cardinal Division to place seventh behind champion Dublin Jerome (6-0) and lost to Jerome 17-5 in the second round of the Division I, Region 3 tournament.
Darby was 2-0 overall before playing Watterson on March 27. The Panthers opened March 20 by defeating Pickerington Central 10-1 and beat Gahanna 8-3 on March 23. They open league play April 5 at home against Worthington Kilbourne.
"We still remain a young program and the inexperience in some cases will be addressed with our guys wanting to learn and be coached," ninth-year coach Rob Schmeling said. "But we feel we have good leadership at key positions to go with the young faces and we will rely on that leadership to help cast our vision and goals for the year."
Among the key players are senior defender Jack Conley, junior midfielder Nick Wile and sophomore attacker/midfielder Dominic Iosue.
"Jack is a leader who will run our defense," Schmeling said. "Jack is a very coachable student-athlete who truly understands the game. He works hard with younger defensemen in assisting them with our foundation and what we have identified as non-negotiables.
"Nick also is a leader both on and off the field for us. The passion he brings every day along with the desire to help make the team better is what makes him so valuable to our program."
Junior Blake Robinson and sophomore Hunter Wagner are expected to make an impact in the attack, while senior Jackson Kane and sophomores Brayden Hill and Nick Liening are expected to join Wile in the midfield.
Junior defenders Justen Shaw and Matthew Spangler will play alongside Conley, in front of either senior Jon Kane or junior Nathan Sprott in goal.
"I really like how this team is putting in the extra effort and desire to be the best we can be," Schmeling said. "Many of them put in a great deal of work in the offseason so that they were able to hit the ground running."
Others vying for time in the midfield include seniors Vince Jerrome and Brar Museitf, juniors Jacob Brenneman and Ethan Stewart, sophomores Creed Galko and Connor Rowe and freshmen Alan Riggans and Kaleb Williams.
Seeking time on defense are senior Nick Patel, junior Blair Weaver, sophomore Caleb Brashear and freshman Brad Weaver.
"Every year we work with a slightly different group from the year prior," Schmeling said. "We will need to continue to grow our understanding of the game and the opponents in which we face. Our practice and preparation need to be performed at a high level so that come game time they are prepared both mentally and physically."
Girls lacrosse team has new coach
First-year girls lacrosse coach Kaleb Secor inherited a team with strong senior leadership, and he believes that will help the Panthers improve on last season.
Darby finished 12-7 overall a year ago and went 3-3 in the OCC-Cardinal to place fourth behind champion Thomas Worthington (6-0). The Panthers lost to the Cardinals 19-3 in the second round of the Division I, Region 3 tournament.
Secor replaced Dennis Moore, who stepped down after five seasons.
"Our team is led by a strong senior class with a large amount of talent in the sophomore and freshman classes as well," Secor said. "We've got 15 seniors and 13 sophomores in the program and we also have 29 freshmen, but just three sophomores. The girls are very focused and determined to not just repeat last year's success, but to improve on it."
The Panthers opened March 20 with a 17-6 win over Kettering Fairmont. They begin league play April 5 at Kilbourne.
Among the returnees are senior attackers Zoe Hartman, Colleen Hissom, Cassie Jenkins and Lexie Van Cleef.
"Colleen is a very talented attack player who will continue her playing career at Tiffin next season," Secor said. "She has an innate ability to find an open cutting lane and complete the catch and goal. She is an all-around attack player who should have a breakout senior season."
Senior Halli Reinhard and sophomore Carli Rigel have returned in the midfield, where freshman Kelsey Binion also is expected to start.
"Halli has all of the intangibles it takes to be a talented playmaker as a midfielder," Secor said. "She has quickness, vision and, most importantly, anticipation. What sets her apart is her ability to not only make plays, but make the right plays. She will play at Indiana Tech next year."
The defense in front of senior goalkeeper Melissa Edwards is expected to be a combination of senior Taryn Rogers, sophomore Nicole Peterman and freshmen Cate Gearhiser and Kendyl Mahoney.
"Taryn is one of the most competitive athletes I have ever been around," Secor said. "She lays everything on the line for her team and is a fierce competitor. She is very talented on defense and she will play at Ohio Wesleyan next season."
Rounding out the roster are senior midfielders Marisol Allison, Liz Avila, Caitlin Gookin and Alexis Ruzicka, senior defenders Anna Goschke and Iris Reyeros and sophomore attacker Gabby Stern.
"The seniors have set the bar high for the underclassmen in terms of what is to be expected," Secor said. "The leadership has created a culture of positivity and excitement about playing lacrosse that inspires everyone to give their best and play for each other.
"Our team will need to continue to work on playing consistently. We have a lot of talent and I believe we can compete with anyone. Belief in ourselves and consistent play can get us to where we want to be as a team."
March 20 -- vs. Pickerington Central
March 23 -- at Gahanna
March 27 -- vs. Watterson
March 29 -- at Pickerington North
April 3 -- at Bexley
*April 5 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne
*April 10 -- at Dublin Scioto
*April 12 -- vs. Delaware
April 17 -- at St. Charles
April 19 -- vs. Columbus Academy
*April 24 -- at Dublin Jerome
*April 26 -- vs. Thomas Worthington
*May 1 -- at Bradley
May 4 -- vs. Toledo St. John's
May 8 -- vs. Marysville
May 11 -- vs. Davidson
March 20 -- vs. Kettering Fairmont
March 28 -- vs. Pickerington Central
March 29 -- vs. Whetstone
April 3 -- vs. Columbus School for Girls
*April 5 -- at Worthington Kilbourne
April 7 -- at Gahanna
*April 10 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
*April 12 -- at Delaware
April 19 -- at Davidson
April 21 -- Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown in Hannigan-Galipault Tournament at Thomas Worthington
*April 24 -- vs. Dublin Jerome
*April 26 -- at Thomas Worthington
April 28 -- vs. Watterson
*May 1 -- vs. Bradley
May 3 -- vs. Westerville Central
May 8 -- at Bexley
May 10 -- vs. Centennial
Below are the coming schedules for the Darby baseball, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
March 30 -- Home vs. Massillon Jackson
March 31 -- At Olentangy Liberty with Findlay
*April 2 -- At Delaware
*April 4 -- Home vs. Delaware
*March 29 -- At Delaware
March 31 -- At Davidson with Watkins Memorial
April 3 -- Home vs. Westerville South
*April 4 -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne
*March 29 -- At Delaware
April 2 -- Home vs. Davidson
*April 3 -- Home vs. Kilbourne
TRACK & FIELD
March 31 -- Wildcat Premier at Davidson
April 3 -- At Dublin Jerome
March 29-31 -- Tiger Classic at Wheaton (Ill.) Warrenville
*April 3 -- Home vs. Kilbourne