The roster for the Bexley High School field hockey team hasn't been this deep in years.

The roster for the Bexley High School field hockey team hasn't been this deep in years.

With injuries and illnesses, the Lions have been shorthanded in recent seasons. This year, 18 freshmen are part of the program under coach Kara Whitlatch, who is in her 13th season.

"I usually average around four to five freshmen, but this year's class is much bigger and they've been playing field hockey," said Whitlatch, whose team defeated Kettering Fairmont 4-3 in its opener Aug. 22. "None of them are new to the sport. It's great to have so many, but they need to gain experience (at the varsity level) and they're being thrust into that role."

Two freshmen, Bea Anderson and Maddy Vincent, are expected to be among the starters. They play for-ward/midfielder.

The group of top returnees from a team that finished 10-8 overall last season includes senior co-captains Ashley Barno (forward; 5 goals, 5 assists), Sidney Fournier (midfielder) and Emily Predmore (midfielder).

Bexley must replace much of its offensive production with the loss of 2015 graduates Grace Rosenthal (9 goals, 2 assists) and Kara Friedman (4 goals, 12 assists). Friedman earned a spot on the all-state squad and Rosenthal was second-team all-league.

"Last year, the girls were so used to Kara setting them up," Whitlatch said. "Now they have to do some of that work themselves and I think they're finding out they don't have to rely on Kara so much. They're still trying to figure out their roles."

Junior forward Amber Grubb and sophomore forward Emily Palmer also are expected to play key roles on offense.

Defensively, Bexley has a new goalkeeper in junior Ali Ford, who replaces 2015 graduate Lucy Fowler. Senior Sydney Meyer and junior Han Ta bring experience around the net.

"We gave up more goals in the preseason than I would've liked," said Whitlatch, whose team tied Granville for fourth (5-3) behind champion Columbus Academy (8-0) in the Central Ohio Field Hockey League-East Division last season. "But I think they're going to improve every game."

New volleyball coach expects better results

Despite being the second girls volleyball coach in as many seasons, Cathie Ward isn't new to the program.

She has helped guide the middle school program the past five seasons.

"It's been coming together," said Ward, whose team opened Aug. 25 against Reynoldsburg.

"There are going to be growing pains. We're a young team. Almost half the (players) are freshmen. We're young, but it's something to build on."

Under coach Justina Sleesman, the Lions finished 7-15 overall a year ago. In the MSL-Ohio, they placed sixth (5-9) behind champion London (14-0).

While the Lions are young, they do have experienced returning starters in senior middle hitter Olivia Long and juniors Hannah Hilgeman (setter; honorable mention all-league) and Emily Bloch (defensive specialist).

Junior right-side hitter Kendall Alexander, a move-in from Indiana, and sophomore outside hitter Amanda Frey also will have starting roles.

"We're going to have a couple of servers (Long and Hilgeman) who can really place the ball," Ward said. "With our middle hitters we're hoping to run a faster offense. We've got speed on the outside. We just need to gain some experience."

Ward expects several freshmen to contribute, including libero Kaia Woodford, middle hitter Josie Zox, defensive specialist Sierra Rogers and right-side hitter Rose Thomas.

The team must replace four 2015 graduates in Mary Massarelli (second-team all-league), Olivia Riley (first-team all-league), Megan Daugherty and Elise Torrence. Both Massarelli (assists) and Riley (aces) left the program with school records.

"What's great is they have a great feeder-system program from the middle school," Ward said.

"We want to be competitive this year and I think you're going to see us being a scrappy team that will go for everything that we possibly can."

Football team opens against Harvest Prep

The opening opponent for the football team is coming off its best season.

A year ago, Harvest Prep earned a playoff berth and won the MSL-Cardinal championship for the first time when it finished 8-3 overall and 6-0 in the league.

The Lions have won their last two meetings against the Warriors, including 45-12 in last season's opener.

Under second-year coach Milan Smith, Harvest Prep enters the season with a young team that has just nine seniors after reaching the postseason and losing to Caldwell 48-25 in a first-round game in Division VII, Region 25.

Four sophomores are expected to start on the offensive line. Harvest Prep is expecting big things from sophomore Isaiah Mullins, a 6-foot-5, 240-pounder who will play tight end and defensive end.

Sophomore Daniel Bangura is expected to start at quarterback, although senior Rodney Myers Jr. likely will take over at midseason. Myers must sit out the first five games after transferring from Pickerington North.

Bexley will begin its quest for a third consecutive postseason appearance with plenty of experience that includes a seasoned offensive line in seniors Izzy Keller and Jackson Lee and juniors Parker Getz, John Corcella and Wade Randle.

The Lions also are deep at running back, where juniors Micah Fliegel and Shawn Early return as starters.

Fliegel was honorable mention all-district and all-league last year, rushing for 765 yards and seven touchdowns.

Bexley finished 8-3 overall and 4-2 in the MSL-Ohio. The Lions lost to Beechcroft 39-20 in the first round of the Division IV, Region 13 playoffs.