With two Division I-bound players leading the way, the Olentangy High School girls lacrosse team expected its midfield to be one of its strengths.
But even the Braves' starting midfielders marvel at what at least one of them regards as an almost telepathic relationship.
"The three of us know not only where the ball is but where it's going, who's going to get it and what's going to happen," junior Kenzie Sklar said. "We have a ton of trust in each other. We set the pace."
Sklar, senior Elise Harder and junior Maddie Garner have had a huge say in the Braves' fortunes so far this season. They combined for 96 goals and 48 assists through 11 games, and Olentangy was 9-4 overall and 4-1 in the OCC-Buckeye Division before its league finale May 1 at Liberty.
Garner had 44 goals, 18 assists and 82 draw controls, Harder had 34 goals, 16 assists and 31 draw controls and Sklar added 18 goals, 14 assists and 15 draw controls.
"They are huge assets to the team," coach Amy McCormick said. "They all work very well together."
The midfield trio has played together almost constantly for three seasons, as Garner and Sklar became starters early in their freshman year.
Harder is a Detroit Mercy recruit, and Sklar has committed to Kent State. Both made their decisions during January of their junior seasons.
"We meshed pretty quickly," Harder said. "We've been good at controlling the draw and adjusting on the fly. We're able to key in on good (opposing) players."
McCormick said Garner in particular has been a linchpin for the offense.
"It's like her stick has a magnet on it. She always gets the ball and she makes something happen and makes it look so effortless," McCormick said. "She is one of those players who is not coming over and asking how many goals she has. We have to tell her. She is a selfless player and always is involved with whatever play is going for. She's way above our expectations (and) doing more than any coach would want."
A stretch of four losses in six games in mid-April halted the Braves' 5-0 start, in which they had averaged 19 goals per contest. The tail end of that skid came April 23 in a 19-14 loss at Thomas Worthington, but Olentangy rebounded with consecutive wins over Westerville North (23-8 on April 26) and Springboro (15-13 on April 28).
Olentangy finishes the regular season with games Thursday, May 3, at home against Worthington Kilbourne and Tuesday, May 8, at DeSales, which was a Division II state semifinalist last year after winning the state championship in 2016.
"Those games brought us down a bit but they helped us focus in practice and prop each other up," Sklar said. "We dissected what we've been doing wrong. We got back to basics. We had been overthinking things too much. Some of these (recent) wins have been confidence boosters. We're showing what we can do."
Brookshire, Nation lead girls to title
The girls track and field team won six events, including two victories each for Lex Brookshire and Holly Nation, to score 110 points and win its annual Olentangy Invitational on April 27.
The Braves edged runner-up Orange by five points.
Brookshire won the 800 meters (2 minutes, 22.8 seconds) and 1,600 (5:15.68).
Nation leapt 5 feet, 3 inches in the high jump and went 1:00.29 in the 400, two spots ahead of teammate Olivia Johnston (1:00.55), and also helped the 800 relay to third place (1:49.37).
Other winners for the Braves were Siobhan Szerencsits in the pole vault (12-3) and the 3,200 relay (10:12.97). Stephanie Miller was fourth in the pole vault (9-6).
The boys finished sixth (52) of eight teams behind champion Orange (107).
Gabe Chrysler was second in the shot put (46-3) and fifth in the discus (125-5). Ethan Harsh was third in the 300 hurdles (44.28), Sam Holt was third in the 1,600 (4:35.6) and Luke Murdock placed third in the high jump (5-8).
The Braves' final two regular-season meets will be at Orange -- the Delaware County Elite 8 on Friday, May 4, and the OCC-Buckeye meet May 10 and 12.
Volleyball team closes in on title
The boys volleyball team entered the week needing one victory to clinch at least a share of the OCC-Buckeye championship and two to win it outright.
The Braves were 16-2 overall and 8-0 in the league before playing Orange on May 1. Olentangy entered that match just ahead of second-place Liberty (7-1), and the Braves will visit the Patriots in their league finale Thursday, May 3.
Olentangy went 4-0 last week, with OCC-Buckeye wins over Westerville North (25-10, 25-11, 25-21 on April 24) and Westerville Central (25-10, 25-20, 25-18 on April 26) before sweeping a tri April 27 at Beavercreek, 25-22, 25-22, 25-16 over the Beavers and 25-17, 25-14 over Kettering Fairmont.
The Braves are ranked first in the East Region and fourth in the state in Division I this week.
Below are the coming schedules for the Olentangy baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
*May 3 -- At Westerville South in makeup from April 25. The Braves defeated the Wildcats 11-3 on April 5 and 10-0 in six innings April 10.
*May 4 -- Home vs. Olentangy Liberty. The Braves lost to the Patriots 1-0 on April 20 and 10-6 on April 23.
May 5 -- Home vs. Hilliard Darby in makeup from April 7
May 9 -- Home vs. 26th-seeded Dublin Coffman or 40th-seeded Newark in second round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays 13th-seeded Canal Winchester, 19th-seeded Pickerington North or 33rd-seeded Chillicothe in district semifinal May 14. The Braves are seeded ninth.
May 3 -- At Worthington Kilbourne
May 3 -- Home vs. Kilbourne
May 8 -- At DeSales
*May 3 -- At Westerville Central in makeup from April 24. The Braves lost to the Warhawks 10-2 on April 26.
May 4 -- At Delaware
May 5 -- At Pickerington North with London
*May 7 -- At Westerville North in makeup from April 25. The Braves defeated the Warriors 11-6 on April 12.
May 9 -- Home vs. 17th-seeded Dublin Jerome or 21st-seeded Upper Arlington in second round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays seventh-seeded Hilliard Bradley, 20th-seeded Newark or 46th-seeded Marion Harding in district semifinal May 14. The Braves are seeded 13th.
May 3 -- Home vs. Jerome
May 7 -- Home vs. Wellington
May 8 -- Home vs. UA in makeup from April 3
TRACK & FIELD
May 4 -- Delaware County Elite 8 at Olentangy Orange
*May 3 -- At Liberty. The Braves defeated the Patriots 25-10, 25-21, 25-15 on April 17.
May 5 -- At Kettering Alter
May 9 -- At Darby