First-year Westerville North High School girls lacrosse coach Joe Heighway expects to see dividends from last season's learning experience.
With a lineup filled with freshmen and sophomores, the Warriors finished 4-15 overall and placed sixth (2-5) in the OCC-Buckeye Division behind champion New Albany (7-0).
A year later, the players have learned about varsity lacrosse and are ready to take a step forward.
"The kids are much more comfortable than last year," said Heighway, who was an assistant under Mollie Phythyon in her three seasons leading the program. "We threw a lot of freshmen into varsity last year, so having that year under their belts has given them a little more confidence."
Senior attacker Emily Garee sees the improvement in the team, which lost its opener to New Albany 20-1 on March 20 and fell to Dublin Scioto 14-4 on March 22.
"I think things are going really well because we have the basics down better than in the past and I see better chemistry on the field than in past years," said Garee, whose team opens league play April 5 against Big Walnut. "I'm excited about the season and think we can do great things."
Garee said staying upbeat is one of the biggest keys for the Warriors.
"You have to stay positive no matter the circumstances," she said. "You have to appreciate the little victories and you cannot get down on yourselves.
"I think being positive is the main thing. You have to be encouraging to your teammates because you cannot get anywhere without a positive attitude. You have to put in a full effort by showing up to work hard in practice, working hard on your drills and loving the sport."
Senior defender Sydney Chafin, junior midfielders Kaitlyn Boso and Grace Heighway, junior defender Kate Smith and sophomore defender Courtney Hornyak are other returning starters. Junior midfielder Paige Miller also should be a scoring threat. Senior Reese Burke is the goalkeeper.
"We need to work on our offense in the midfield and our ball control," coach Heighway said. "I think we have a lot of potential."
Boys lacrosse coach sees potential in team
Third-year coach Nate Nelson is excited about the prospects of the boys lacrosse team.
The Warriors were 10-9 overall last season and finished sixth (2-5) in the OCC-Buckeye behind champion Olentangy Liberty (7-0), but they expect to improve those records.
"I feel like we have a lot of potential and a lot coming back," Nelson said. "We probably have the biggest senior class since I have been here and we have probably four or five freshmen pushing for time."
Senior Luke Fuller leads the attack and senior Zach Whaley (second-team all-region and all-league) anchors the defense along with senior goalie Richard Du (honorable mention all-region and all-league).
"Luke Fuller is kind of the quarterback of the attack ... and is the leader on offense for us," Nelson said. "We have a good group of defenders back and they have been playing well as a defensive unit."
The Warriors opened with a 10-2 win over Hilliard Bradley on March 20 before losing to DeSales 14-2 on March 23. They open league play April 5 against Big Walnut.
Nelson likes what he has seen from seniors Caden Culver (attacker) and Kendrick Rodgers (midfielder), juniors Trent Bobo (midfielder) and Will Olson (midfielder) and freshman Ian Evans (attacker). He said senior Jack Larimer has played well after moving from midfielder to defender.
"I really like the camaraderie that we have shown," Nelson said. "We had a 10-2 performance on opening day (against Bradley). We haven't come out strong like that in the past. It showed that they are willing to play for one another."