Watterson High School field hockey coach Janet Baird is the first to admit that she's been fortunate to have a slew of speedy forwards for the majority of her 15 years at the helm of the program.

Watterson High School field hockey coach Janet Baird is the first to admit that she's been fortunate to have a slew of speedy forwards for the majority of her 15 years at the helm of the program.

That isn't the case this season, though, so Baird is asking her players to utilize a more direct and physical style to win games.

The Eagles, who finished 12-4-2 overall last year after losing to Thomas Worthington 1-0 in overtime in a district final, opened with a 4-1 win at Dublin Coffman on Aug. 29 and will play Wednesday, Sept. 7, at Bexley.

"We're not a fast team and it's driving me crazy because I'm used to having a lot of speed up front," Baird said. "But we do have girls who are tall and physically strong, so we're trying to be aggressive so we can use our physical strength to our advantage. There aren't many teams that are going to be able to knock our girls off the ball this year."

Six starters have returned to lead the way in seniors Katie Elberson (left wing), Kelly Grifftih (center midfield), Sydney Lynch (goalkeeper) and Natalie Murico (left midfield) and juniors Emily Engert (left attack) and Elizabeth Racher (center defense).

First-year starters are seniors Megan Farina (left defense), Lindsey Rankin (right wing) and Mary Thornton (right wing), junior Amanda Harbrecht (right defense) and sophomores Leah Delp (right attack) and Stephanie Polletta (right midfield).

Also on the team are senior Kirstie Schons (defense), juniors Morgan Blaney (defense), Alessandra Margello (attack), Samantha Paul (attack) and Sarah Story (defense) and sophomore Maria Swearingen (midfield).

Last year, the Eagles finished third in the Central Ohio Field Hockey League with a 7-2-2 mark, behind Columbus Academy (11-0) and Thomas (10-1) and ahead of Bexley (7-3-1), Coffman (7-3-1), Olentangy Liberty (7-4), Columbus School for Girls (6-4-1), Hartley (6-4-1), Upper Arlington (6-5), Granville (5-5-1), Dublin Jerome (4-6-1), Olentangy (4-7), Olentangy Orange (2-8-1), Lancaster (1-10), Worthington Kilbourne (0-10-1) and Dublin Scioto (0-11).

Watterson opened the district tournament with a 9-0 win over Lancaster and beat Jerome 4-0 in a semifinal before losing to Thomas.

"We need to grow as a team this year, but we always try to set the bar high for the kids," Baird said. "We should get great competition from Columbus Academy, Thomas Worthington, Upper Arlington and Bexley in our league and in the playoffs."

•The girls volleyball team opened Aug. 27 with a 30-28, 25-18 loss to Erlanger (Ky.) St. Henry and a 25-23, 25-17 loss to Cincinnati McAuley.

The Eagles, who finished 19-7 overall last year after losing to Coffman 17-25, 25-17, 25-19, 25-20 in a Division I regional semifinal, will open their CCL schedule Sept. 8 by playing host to CSG.

Watterson returns 10 letterwinners in seniors Emily Gilles (outside hitter/opposite hitter), Michelle Glancey (outside hitter), Ellyn Mogan (defensive specialist), Madeline Shaw (middle hitter), Ellen Shirk (defensive specialist) and Darby Slavin (setter/opposite hitter), juniors Rachel Chadwick (setter), Abby Hofmeister (setter) and Kendall Irion (defensive specialist) and sophomore Lauren Frilling (middle hitter).

Newcomers to varsity are juniors Molly McEwan (middle hitter), Allison Merkle (setter/defensive specialist) and Kaitlyn Rabe (outside hitter) and sophomores Caroline Canute (outside hitter/opposite hitter) and Katie Cramer (defensive specialist).

"We have a good amount of height and we can put balls down," 16th-year coach Chuck Gleich said. "But we're working on our blocking and on ball control because we need to improve in those areas."

Last year, Watterson went 6-2 in the CCL to tie Hartley for first, ahead of Ready (5-3), DeSales (3-5) and CSG (0-8).

The sixth-seeded Eagles opened the district tournament with a 25-4, 25-9, 25-6 victory over Walnut Ridge. They then defeated Marion-Franklin 25-8, 25-14, 25-13 in the second round and upset fourth-seeded Upper Arlington 25-19, 25-15, 25-17 in a district semifinal and third-seeded Olentangy Liberty 25-19, 25-22, 26-24 in a district final to win their first district championship since 2007.

"Hartley is strong and DeSales and Ready are good, so the CCL will be a big challenge for us," Gleich said. "I think we've got the potential to win championships, but we can't put too much pressure on ourselves. We need to relax and just play."