For the second consecutive season, the Olentangy Orange High School boys lacrosse team reached a Division I regional semifinal last spring.
Second-year coach Patrick Boyce believes the Pioneers are primed to go further this season, and they have 14 seniors whose goal is breaking through to the regional final and beyond.
"We have great seniors and they are the heart of the team," Boyce said. "They are better than any senior class I have been around. They love each other, play for each other and have high expectations."
The Pioneers finished 13-6 overall last season, losing to Olentangy 14-2 in a Region 1 semifinal. They also tied New Albany and Olentangy for second (5-2) in the OCC-Buckeye Division behind Liberty (7-0).
Senior midfielder Lake Harris said familiarity should lead to success for the Pioneers.
"We have all been playing together since the third grade," said Harris, who was second-team all-state, Region Face-off Specialist of the Year and first-team all-league last season. "We know how each other plays. I think having that brotherhood there behind you when going through adversity is the best thing you can have."
Senior Cooper Durst also returns to the midfield after being honorable mention all-region last season.
"I think it's really important to have played together for so long," Durst said. "We have been playing together for a long time. We know where everyone is at on the field. I don't even have to look at them."
The Pioneers split their first two games. They lost to Delaware 5-2 on March 20 as senior attacker Luke Schmeling scored twice, and Schmeling and sophomore attacker Bo Roby scored three goals each in a 12-3 win over Granville on March 22.
Durst, Harris and Schmeling (second-team all-region and all-league) are returning starters, as are seniors Jack Applegate (midfielder), Drew Bednarek (defender), Ryan Forbes (midfielder; honorable mention all-region), Mason Handa (attacker; honorable mention all-league) and Drew Row (defender).
Senior Trevor Rusk is the goalkeeper.
"We're more experienced on the offensive end of the field, and we have a lot of experienced underclassmen back on defense," Boyce said. "Bednarek is a senior, but junior Evan Secrist and sophomore Zach Hill also started last year (on defense). Junior Mitchell Gifford will help out in the midfield."
Orange opens OCC-Buckeye play April 5 at Westerville Central.
"I think we're playing well on the offensive end where we have a lot of really good attackmen and they have a lot of good stick skills," Harris said. "In the midfield, we (are) seven guys deep (and they) also can play offense. I think our depth will help us with the strength of our starters and our second line."
Girls lacrosse team loaded with experience
Fourth-year girls lacrosse coach Megan Noone has a special bond with the eight seniors on her varsity roster.
"This is a special group because they were my first freshman class I had here," Noone said. "I think we can pull off some unexpected wins because of the heart and the care they have for each other."
The Pioneers won their first two games after finishing 6-13 overall last season and placing fourth (4-3) in the OCC-Buckeye behind champion New Albany (7-0).
They defeated Pickerington North 10-3 on March 20 as senior midfielder Kailee O'Brien (first-team all-region) and junior attacker Maddie Girard both scored three times.
Senior midfielder Melanie Neuman had three goals in a 19-1 win over Centennial on March 23.
"I think our defense is playing well and it should be our strong suit this year," Noone said. "Seniors Reagan Keane and Jillian Neuman and junior Taylor Houston are strong back there for us."
Once again, Orange will divide goalkeeping duties between senior Corynn Schneider and junior Grace McAninch.
Seniors Lauren Clary, Bella Lindell and Hannah Lower are attacking midfielders. Also in the midfield are Melanie Neuman, sophomore Hannah Brown and O'Brien, who will play at Florida Tech.
"We have looked good in the attack with a lot of players stepping up for us," said Noone, whose team begins league play April 5 at home against Central. "The big thing we need to do now is spread out in transition.
"I think this group will be able to achieve excellence and accomplish our goals. The seniors really want to go out on a positive note."
March 20 -- at Delaware
March 22 -- vs. Granville
April 3 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
*April 5 -- at Westerville Central
April 7 -- vs. Medina
*April 10 -- vs. New Albany
*April 12 -- at Olentangy
April 14 -- vs. Centerville
*April 17 -- at Olentangy Liberty
April 19 -- vs. Watterson
April 21 -- at Dublin Jerome
*April 24 -- vs. Westerville South
*April 26 -- at Big Walnut
March 27 -- at Perrysburg
March 28 -- at Whitehouse Anthony Wayne
*May 1 -- vs. Westerville North
May 3 -- vs. St. Charles
May 10 -- vs. DeSales
March 20 -- vs. Pickerington North
March 23 -- vs. Centennial
April 3 -- at Granville
*April 5 -- vs. Westerville Central
April 7 -- vs. Columbus School for Girls
*April 10 -- at New Albany
*April 12 -- vs. Olentangy
April 13 -- at Pickerington Central
*April 17 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
April 19 -- at Dublin Coffman
April 21 -- Buckner (Ky.) Oldham County and Wooster in Hannigan-Galipault Tournament at Thomas Worthington
*April 24 -- vs. Westerville South
*April 26 -- vs. Big Walnut
April 27 -- vs. Hartley
*May 1 -- at Westerville North
May 3 -- at Gahanna
May 11 -- at Columbus Academy
Below are the coming schedules for the Orange baseball, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
March 29 -- Niceville (Fla.) in Baseball at the Beach in Destin, Fla.
*April 2 -- Home vs. Olentangy Liberty
April 3 -- Home vs. Northland
*April 4 -- At Liberty
April 3 -- At Ready
April 4 -- At Big Walnut
April 3 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson
TRACK & FIELD
March 31 -- Newark Invitational
April 4 -- Home vs. DeSales
*April 3 -- Home vs. Liberty