Taking into consideration that the Big Walnut High School girls club lacrosse team is in its third season, first-year coach Steve Palmer is pleased with the progress the Golden Eagles are making this spring.

Taking into consideration that the Big Walnut High School girls club lacrosse team is in its third season, first-year coach Steve Palmer is pleased with the progress the Golden Eagles are making this spring.

However, he looks forward to the day when the Golden Eagles establish a feeder program, which he said will make the players better prepared to play varsity once they get to high school.

"The boys have a middle school program this year for the first time and hopefully we can get one next year, because it makes it hard when you come in as freshman and have to learn the sport," Palmer said.

"If you have a middle school program, when you come in as a freshman, you already know the game."

Big Walnut finished 0-11 in its inaugural season in 2009 and 3-12-1 last season. It won one of its first six games this season.

"I've been playing since back when we started the team and there's a lot of improvement (compared to the 2009 season)," junior Shelby Coulter said. "We know how to catch the ball and how to pick it up. We're improving a lot in our skills, and our older kids are helping the younger kids. When we started out, we didn't have anyone to be like, 'All right, this is what you need to do.'"

"We typically do well against the (junior varsity) squads of the bigger schools," Palmer said. "That's just where we are skill-wise, but our kids don't give up. We play hard, but playing hard against a good skill team, we're still overmatched."

Palmer said his players must learn how to avoid stretches during games where their level of play drops off.

"We have about five to eight minutes during a game where we just kind of slow down or stop, and that is our Achilles' heel," he said. "That gets us every now and then. But when you have so many players who are playing the sport for the first time, they've got to learn how to play and maintain at that level. It's a learning process."

Palmer continues to make changes to his lineup. In an effort to improve his team's offensive production, he recently moved Coulter from defense to attack. Coulter scored three goals in her first game as an attacker, a 6-3 win over Hartley's j.v. team on April 18. In her second game at the new position, she added three more goals in an 11-6 loss to Worthington Kilbourne's j.v. squad on April 20.

Coulter had a team-high eight goals through six games.

"The last two years she's played defense, but we moved her up to the attack position," Palmer said. "We're trying to get people in the right spots. As a new coach and a new team, we're still trying to find the right pieces to the puzzle."

An experienced soccer player, Coulter said the similarities between soccer and lacrosse have helped her make the transition from defense to attack.

"I actually move up from defense to attack in soccer, so I used that knowledge to help me when I switched to attack," she said. "I just use my attack skills from soccer and transfer it to lacrosse and put a stick in my hand and go from there."

Coulter had to sit out last season with the girls soccer team while recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL and meniscus in her right knee. However, in the 2009 soccer season, she scored six goals as a defender.

"In soccer, I do pretty well on offense," she said. "I was one of the top scorers there, too. I just use those skills to get around the defenders (in lacrosse). The thing that's also helped me is that I've played defense (in lacrosse) and I know where (the opponent's) defense is going. I can predict their moves."

Junior midfielder/attacker Schuyler Kuhlman was second on the team in goals through six games with five. Senior attacker Jillian Ward and senior attacker/midfielder Christa Ford were tied for third with three goals apiece.

Palmer said the Golden Eagles' defense has been led by senior Kennedy Gardner and junior Brittany Daubenspeck. Gardner played attack last season and Daubenspeck is a first-year player.

"Kennedy's had a heck of a year defensively," Palmer said. "She's one of our mainstay defenders. Brittany Daubenspeck is a new player this year, but she certainly has latched onto the role of a defensive player."

•One of the keys for the boys club lacrosse team was to fill the void left by midfielders Nathaniel Adkins and Kody Novak, 2010 Canal Winchester graduates who scored 40 and 29 goals, respectively, in 14 games last season.

Big Walnut may not have any players with the same scoring touch as Adkins and Novak, but coach Nate Dewey believes his team has more offensive balance.

"In the past, we had one or two players scoring," Dewey said. "This year we're starting to get four or five players we can count on (for goals). We've had a number of guys step in and score. We're spreading it around a bit."

Through seven games, sophomore midfielder Parker Marsch was leading the Golden Eagles with 12 goals. Junior attacker Brandon Sholl and sophomore midfielder Trevor Seaver were tied for second with eight goals, followed by sophomore midfielder Carson Chatterton and freshman midfielder Jhordan Lang with four apiece.

Big Walnut won three of its first seven games, posting wins over Columbus City Schools (9-6 on March 23), Wilmington (15-6 on April 16) and Johnstown (18-3 on April 21). Its losses came against Westerville South (13-4 on April 5), Olentangy Orange (13-0 on April 9), Westerville North (13-3 on April 11) and Westerville Central (15-4 on April 13).

"We're starting to turn it around and get momentum going," Dewey said. "We're so young and playing those experienced teams at the beginning of the year showed our weaknesses. We're right where we thought we'd be."

Dewey said Big Walnut has been led defensively by junior defenders Lukas Swysgood and Matt Pozderac, who attends Centerburg. Dewey also praised the play of junior goalkeeper Sawyer Lott, who had 82 saves and a .453 save percentage through seven games.

"We can be a little better on faceoffs and a little bit better on transition, getting up and down the field," Dewey said. "If we shore up those two spots, we'll see a lot of improvement."

•The OCC-Capital Division tournament is always challenging for the boys tennis team, but it will be even more so this season as five players are expected to miss the event on Saturday, May 7, at Hilliard Bradley, because of another commitment.

According to coach Mike McDonough, senior Sam Lawless (second singles), juniors Nate Fagan (second doubles) and Dan Violet (third singles) and sophomores Jeff Tribble (second doubles) and Sean Tribble (first doubles) will not be available for the league tournament. Lawless, Violet and Sean Tribble are starters and Fagan and Jeff Tribble rotate at second doubles with three other players.

"The state band and choir competition is that day, so close to half the team will be gone," McDonough said. "I'm going to be going with a depleted group."

Last season, Big Walnut finished the OCC-Capital tournament with 46 points to place second, behind New Albany (77) and ahead of Olentangy Orange (38), Mount Vernon (37), Delaware Hayes (35), Bradley (17), Watkins Memorial (12) and Franklin Heights (1).