Will Robbins always wanted to play college lacrosse, but a broken hand suffered days after his junior season ended meant the Upper Arlington High School senior defender's recruitment slowed to a crawl.
Even so, a well-timed email and a valuable connection started a chain of events that have Robbins headed to one of the nation's top programs.
Robbins, one of the anchors of a Golden Bears defense that allowed an average of 4.1 goals through 15 games, will play for 2016 national champion North Carolina after concluding a high school career that he hopes ends in UA's first Division I state championship since 2016 and the program's 17th overall.
Robbins emailed Tar Heels coach Joe Breschi one night in February after hearing that the team needed a defender, and by the next morning, Breschi contacted UA coach Kyle Olson, whom he had coached at Ohio State.
"By 9 a.m. the next day, he called me and asked me about 'this monster defenseman you've got,'" Olson said.
"He had a spot to fill and he liked what he saw in Will. He saw a lot of potential and everything just worked out for (Robbins).
"He's extremely humble. He will be the last one to tell you where he's going to school and what he's doing. I'll stand up on top of a mountain and shout out how proud I am of him."
Robbins, who suffered a broken metacarpal bone in his right hand during a camp in Connecticut last June, less than a week after UA lost to Cincinnati Moeller in a Division I state semifinal, committed to North Carolina in March and signed in April.
"I just know that an opportunity presented itself and I'm really thankful for that opportunity," said Robbins, who is 6-foot-4, 195 pounds. "Honestly, I didn't have any expectations going in. I was just surprised and pretty excited that anything came out of it. I'm very grateful for coach Olson's ability to facilitate that."
Robbins is in his second year as a starter for the Bears, who are 16-1 overall. Their only loss came May 2, 9-7 at Dublin Coffman in a game that decided the OCC-Central Division championship.
UA went 6-1 in the league to finish second behind the Shamrocks (7-0).
The Bears have posted three shutouts and had not allowed more than seven goals in a game this season before falling to Coffman.
"(Robbins) sees how everything works and, if the defense breaks down, he can pinpoint exactly what happened so we can fix it," goalkeeper Jake Carlin said. "He's an all-around easy guy to work with. He's about the nicest guy you could ask for as a teammate. He's always been one step ahead of everybody else. He has understood the game so well from such an early age that he's always been that much better."
Robbins' maternal grandfather, Dave Shelby, helped introduce lacrosse to UA when he added the sport to Jones Middle School's physical education program in 1970. Shelby was a teacher, coach and administrator in the UA school district for 30 years who played on Ohio State's first lacrosse team in 1949.
The UA boys team's academic award is named for Shelby, whom Olson called "the founding father of Upper Arlington lacrosse."
Although Shelby's daughter, Kristin, is Robbins' mother, Robbins didn't think his lacrosse career was pre-ordained.
"I have a picture of me with a stick when I was like 3," he said. "I considered trying to play college football, but my favorite has always been lacrosse."
Robbins, who caught 10 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns as a tight end and served as a team captain for the football team last fall, isn't ready to say whether this season or his career have lived up to his expectations.
"Exactly what we want to do this year won't be determined until June 2," he said, referring to the date of the Division I state final at Ohio Wesleyan. "We're just progressing toward where we want to be."
Girls lacrosse team remains unbeaten
The girls lacrosse team hasn't had many close games this season, but coach Wendy Pinta said the lessons learned from every game, regardless of result, appear to be serving the team well as it prepares for the Division I regional tournament.
UA was 17-0 overall and top-ranked in the state by LaxPower.com before playing Dublin Jerome on May 8. The Bears extended their winning streak against in-state competition to 68 games last week with victories over Coffman (17-2 on May 1), New Albany (12-5 on May 2) and Cincinnati Summit Country Day (18-6 on May 4).
Brooke Smith's five goals led UA past the previously undefeated Eagles. Both teams were 15-0 entering the game, but the Bears led 9-3 by halftime.
"(New Albany) plays a very tenacious defense, but we were patient (enough) to pick apart the defenses to get the shots we wanted," Pinta said. "We're drawing on our tenacity, grit and determination. We haven't always had that, so that was good to see. We've had too many turnovers, though, so we need to improve on where we're putting the ball and forcing the ball through."
UA earned the top seed in the 17-team Region 3 tournament and will play host to 12th-seeded Beavercreek or 15th-seeded Miamisburg in the second round Tuesday, May 15. The winner plays eighth-seeded Pickerington North or 11th-seeded Centerville in a regional quarterfinal May 18.
Brooke Smith had a team-high 52 goals through 17 games, just ahead of twin sister Brenna Smith (51). Lauren Farber was next with 43, followed by Megan Kozar with 39 and Kileigh Casey with 34.
Farber had five goals and Brenna Smith scored four against Coffman, a win that clinched the Bears the OCC-Central championship.
UA's win over New Albany was only its fifth by fewer than 10 goals this season.
Track teams set for league meet
Track and field athletes Garegin Soghomonyan and Adrienne Wachtman will try to defend their OCC-Central championships in the boys pole vault and girls discus, respectively, and UA will seek to finish in the upper half of the standings in the OCC-Central meet Thursday, May 10, and Saturday, May 12, at Coffman.
Soghomonyan vaulted 13 feet, 6 inches - six inches off his best so far this season - to win the pole vault title last year, and Wachtman threw 115-7 in the discus.
Both teams finished fourth in the league last year. The boys had 69 points to finish behind the Shamrocks (160), Hilliard Davidson (133) and Marysville (80) and ahead of Central Crossing (44) and Westland (35), and the girls scored 80 points to finish behind Davidson (156), Coffman (146.5) and Marysville (100.5) and ahead of Central Crossing (28) and Westland (10).
UA then will compete in Division I district meets next week at Hilliard Darby.
The boys team is in district 1. Preliminaries for the running events are Tuesday, May 15, followed by field events May 17 and running finals May 19.
The girls are in district 2, for which field events take place Wednesday, May 16, followed the next day by preliminaries for running events and then running finals May 19.
The top four finishers in each event advance to regional May 23 and 25 at Pickerington North.
Baseball team heats up entering tourney
The baseball team entered the Division I district tournament having won nine of 10 games, including five in a row last week.
Seeded fifth in the 48-team district tournament, UA was 19-7 overall before playing host to 30th-seeded Dublin Scioto in a second-round game May 9.
The winner plays 12th-seeded Watkins Memorial or 20th-seeded Gahanna in a district semifinal Tuesday, May 15, at a neutral site to be determined. The district final is May 17.
The Bears averaged 12.2 runs in their wins last week - 20-2 over Westland in five innings April 30, 12-11 over Marysville on May 2, 7-4 over Coffman on May 4, 14-3 against Cadiz Harrison Central on May 5 at Toronto and 8-2 over the host Red Knights later that day.
Ethan Hammerberg homered three times, including a solo homer in the seventh inning against Marysville to tie the game, and had four on the season through 26 games. Mason Ward drew a bases-loaded walk to score Steven Bair with the winning run.
UA finished 10-5 in the OCC-Central and handed league champion Davidson its only loss, 14-4 in six innings April 27.
Softball team beats Celtics
The softball team extended its winning streak to four games with a 9-4 win at 17th-seeded Jerome in the first round of the Division I district tournament May 7.
Liv Carlton, Megan Harold and Jackie Kasai each had an RBI hit in a three-run second inning and Kaylee Ballou added a two-run triple in the seventh as 21st-seeded UA improved to 14-8 overall and advanced to a second-round game May 9 at 13th-seeded Olentangy.
The Bears' winning streak began after a 14-13 OCC-Central loss to Marysville -- the top seed in the Division I district tournament -- on April 30.
UA defeated Bloom-Carroll 7-4 on May 1, Coffman 13-3 in five innings on May 2 and DeSales 2-0 on May 5.
The Bears finished 6-4 in the OCC-Central.
Ballou and Gigi Danes each had an RBI single against DeSales.
The UA-Olentangy winner plays seventh-seeded Hilliard Bradley or 20th-seeded Newark in a district semifinal Monday, May 14, at a neutral site to be determined. The district final is May 18 or 19 at Pickerington Central.
The Bears defeated Newark 8-6 on April 27.
Boys tennis team set for postseason
The boys tennis team tried to advance in the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I district tournament when it played host to Thomas Worthington in a third-round match May 8, and then prepared for its home Division I sectional Thursday, May 10, and Saturday, May 12.
UA was 9-3 overall before playing Thomas and wrapped up its 36th consecutive league championship with a win by forfeit over Marysville on May 3.
The Bears went 5-0 in the OCC-Central.
The UA-Thomas winner will play Jerome or St. Charles in a district semifinal on a date to be determined.
At sectional, Eliot Jones is seeded second in singles and Emerson Dean is seeded fourth. UA's other singles player is Lance Li.
Josh Cole and Will Reynolds are the top seed in doubles, while Paige Kompa and Nathan Yu are seeded second.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to the district tournament May 17 at Bradley and May 19 at UA.
Below are the coming schedules for the Upper Arlington boys lacrosse and boys volleyball teams:
May 11-12 -- Midwest Scholastic Lacrosse Coaches Association tournament at Fortress Obetz
May 15 -- 15th-seeded Gahanna or 16th-seeded Miamisburg in second round of Division I, Region 3 tournament. Winner plays 10th-seeded Pickerington North or 13th-seeded Beavercreek in regional quarterfinal May 18. The Golden Bears are the top seed.
*May 10 -- At Hilliard Davidson. The Golden Bears lost to the Wildcats 11-25, 28-26, 25-20, 25-19 on April 12.