Nine state tournament appearances in 11 seasons make the New Albany High School girls lacrosse team's ultimate goal clear-cut.
"For us, it's state or bust," junior defender Erin Carson said. "That's kind of our motto."
Eighth-year coach Dave Ferguson doesn't disagree, hoping five college commits -- including Ohio State-bound junior midfielder Emily Rezabek -- will lead the Eagles over the hump of two Division I state semifinal losses to Massillon Jackson in as many years and on to their first championship since 2013, when they were in Division II.
New Albany is 5-0, having outscored its opponents 70-13.
"Every year, our goal is to win the state championship. The girls buy into that and work hard on it," Ferguson said. "We're very athletic. Our big thing right now is to just get sharper on offense and be more patient. Patience is a key theme. We have a lot of really strong athletes who want to go to the goal and we need to coach them up to be more patient."
Rezabek had 42 goals and 27 assists last year and junior defender Zoe Kellerman had 29 goals as the Eagles went 18-4 overall and ended their season with a 9-2 loss to Jackson.
Junior midfielder Chloe Platte had five goals in the team's first two games, a 6-3 home win over DeSales on March 17 and a 20-1 rout of visiting Westerville North on March 20 in the OCC-Buckeye Division opener for both teams.
Junior attackers Liz Beckner and Margeaux LaJeunesse and junior midfielder Alyssa Kneedler each had four goals in the first two games.
Senior goalkeeper Catherine Ryan, a four-year starter, made 10 saves against DeSales. Sophomore goalie Julia Brisk made one save against North. The Eagles scored three goals in the first minute and led 13-0 at halftime.
New Albany rolled through the Dogwood Girls Lacrosse Classic last weekend at Atlanta Westminster, defeating Atlanta Lovett 18-2 on March 23 before wins the next day over Alpharetta (Georgia) Chattahoochee (11-4) and Chattanooga (Tennessee) Prep (15-3).
"We need to figure out where everyone fits well to make the team mesh the best that it can," Rezabek said. "Overall for the team, working on fast ball movement for the offense and motion and placement to get to the goal were the big things."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Micaylah Nash (defender) and Lauren Sadler (defender), juniors Valentina DiLorenzo (defender), Blythe Ferguson (midfielder), Grace Hoover (attacker), Addyson Koterba (defender), Reagan Rateff (defender), Lauren Sokol (attacker) and Sarah Zinsmeister (defender), sophomores Lauren Gastineau (attacker), Brook Mason (defender), Keely Smith (midfielder), Julia Welte (midfielder) and Kathryn Welte (midfielder) and freshmen Bridget Driscole (midfielder) and Jadyn Sellars (midfielder).
Kellerman is a Rollins College commit. Kneedler has committed to Lindenwood, Koterba is headed to Mercer and Platte has committed to Furman.
New Albany went 7-0 in the OCC-Buckeye last year, winning the league championship by a game ahead of Olentangy Liberty (6-1).
"(The early wins) showed we're coming together as a team, figuring things out about how we can use all the girls on the field, work together and move the ball around and use all of our talents," Platte said. "Our junior class has a lot of strong girls. We have a few new freshmen who are really good, too, and we've been learning to adjust with everybody."
Boys lacrosse team looks for balance
New boys lacrosse coach Danny Gibson isn't expecting just one player to shoulder the offensive responsibilities left by 2017 graduate Andre White, who had 58 goals and 21 assists as a senior and 129 goals the past two seasons and now plays at Hartford.
"We have potentially nine or 10 guys on the offensive side who trust each other and all can put the ball in the back of the net," Gibson said. "Their heads are always up and looking for the next pass. They know they might be able to beat a double team, and they know when that is and isn't the right decision to make. Seeing that at the high school level is a recipe for success."
New Albany was 1-1 before playing St. Charles on March 26.
Seniors Josh Bridges, Drew Miller and Nathan Reader, juniors Cody Roberts and Brode White and freshman Grayson Passias are among the attackers on whom Gibson will rely.
"We have six guys on the field who are always a threat to dodge and a threat to score. Maybe we'll distribute evenly and have some equal points distribution," said Miller, a Rollins College recruit. "Our offense is a little different; it will be more focused on movement and not necessarily one person."
Gibson replaced Chris Brown, who was 78-43 in six seasons with the Eagles. Gibson came to New Albany from Pickerington North, where he was 34-37-1 in four seasons.
The Eagles went 13-7 overall and 5-2 in the OCC-Buckeye last year, tying Olentangy and Olentangy Orange for second behind Liberty (7-0).
Other returnees include senior Ben Chaddock and junior Luke Muter on defense as well as both goalies in senior Matt Huizenga and junior Perry Doran. Huizenga is an Ohio Northern recruit, and Doran has committed to Monmouth.
"Last year we struggled (on defense) with slides and off-the-ball stuff but this year we have good slides, we're physical and we're a better passing team," Muter said.
New Albany opened March 17 with a 10-5 loss at Dublin Jerome and defeated Dublin Scioto 16-3 in the home opener March 23. Miller and Reader each had four goals against Scioto.
Rounding out the roster are seniors Patrick Cooper (attacker), Aiden Day (midfielder) and Chandler Wilson (long-stick midfielder), juniors Peter Ackley (defender/faceoff specialist), Jordan Campbell (midfielder), Owen Dunn (midfielder), B.K. Kakay (defender), Lonnie Kelley (defender) and Grayson Yanok (defender), sophomores Sam Ellis (attacker), Patrick Gurd (defender), Lucas Kasper (defender) and Jake Klausner (defender) and freshman Alex Brendle (attacker).
March 17 -- at Dublin Jerome
March 23 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
March 26 -- vs. St. Charles in makeup from March 21
March 29 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
April 3 -- vs. Pickerington Central
April 6 -- vs. Hartland (Mich.)
*April 10 -- at Olentangy Orange
*April 12 -- at Westerville North
*April 17 -- vs. Olentangy
*April 19 -- at Westerville South
April 21 -- at Delaware
*April 24 -- vs. Westerville Central
April 28-29 -- TBD at Saltsburg (Pa.) Kiski
*May 1 -- vs. Big Walnut
May 2 -- at Granville
May 8 -- vs. DeSales
*May 11 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
March 17 -- vs. DeSales
*March 20 -- vs. Westerville North
March 23 -- Atlanta Lovett in Dogwood Girls Lacrosse Classic at Atlanta Westminster
March 24 -- Alpharetta (Ga.) Chattahoochee and Chattanooga (Tenn.) Prep in Dogwood Girls Lacrosse Classic at Atlanta Westminster
*April 5 -- at Olentangy Liberty
April 7 -- at Mason
*April 10 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
April 13 -- at Massillon Jackson
*April 17 -- vs. Olentangy
April 23 -- at Columbus Academy
*April 24 -- at Westerville Central
*April 26 -- vs. Westerville South
April 28 -- Hudson in Cleveland Heights Lacrosse Invitational
*May 1 -- at Big Walnut
May 2 -- vs. Upper Arlington
May 5 -- vs. Cincinnati Sycamore
May 8 -- at Dublin Coffman
Below are the coming schedules for the New Albany baseball, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
March 31 -- Home vs. Olmsted Falls and Worthington Kilbourne
*April 2 -- Home vs. Newark
*April 4 -- At Newark
April 3 -- At Upper Arlington
April 4 -- Home vs. Hartley
April 3 -- Home vs. Reynoldsburg
April 4 -- At Pickerington North
TRACK & FIELD
April 3 -- Groveport Invitational
March 30 -- At Upper Arlington