With several players back from last season, coach Anne Horton believes the Columbus Academy girls lacrosse team has the potential to defend its Division II state title.

With several players back from last season, coach Anne Horton believes the Columbus Academy girls lacrosse team has the potential to defend its Division II state title.

"The girls are excited," said Horton, who is in her 18th season. "Last year's unexpected success is something that left a pretty good taste in their mouth and they're eager to see what they can accomplish this season as well."

Academy opens Thursday, March 29, at Bexley.

Last season, the Vikings won their first state title since 2000 by defeating Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown 13-11 in the championship game. Academy beat Rocky River 11-10 in a state semifinal.

The Vikings finished 16-1-1 overall and won the Central Independent League at 7-0.

The returning players include junior attacker Courtney Deena, who was second on the team in scoring last season with 45 goals and four assists.

"Last year, winning states was a great accomplishment for us," Deena said. "We never go into the season expecting to win, we always go into the season expecting to put our best foot forward. We are a cohesive group with a coaching staff that pushes us to be our absolute best.

"We are very excited about this season, as we have a lot of returning varsity players and are welcoming new talent to the field. We are looking forward to a great season."

Also back are senior midfielder Clarissa Leickly, who had 43 goals and six assists last season, and senior goalkeeper Sarah Wilson, who made 151 saves.

Senior attacker Meredith McCloud returns after scoring four goals in the state final.

Also returning are seniors Liz Benson (attacker), Sarah Kerr (defender), Rachel Terveer (midfielder) and Rachel Viets (midfielder), juniors Courtney Gittins (attacker), Annie Lavin (defender) and Deepa Manda (goalie) and sophomore Brianna Stahl (defender).

Seniors Emily Daoud (defender), Sydney Mogul (defender) and Brooke Theis (attacker), junior Abby Young (attacker), sophomores Paige Berliner (defender) and Kat Restrepo (defender) and freshman Kelly Brown (midfielder) round out the team.

Benson, Leickly, McCloud and Viets are captains.

Horton said Division II has gotten stronger with the addition of New Albany and Worthington Kilbourne.

"New Albany has always been a tough team for us to beat and now we're going to have to compete with them in our district, so is Worthington Kilbourne," Horton said. "We have some bigger dogs we have to contend with that weren't a part of our divisional breakdown."

Last season, Academy won its league for the second consecutive season, finishing ahead of Wellington (5-2), Hartley (5-2), Columbus School for Girls (4-2), Watterson (3-3), Bexley (2-5), DeSales (1-6) and Granville (0-7).

The Vikings defeated Cincinnati Summit Country Day 10-8 in a regional semifinal and CSG 14-13 in a regional final.

Academy lost seven players from a year ago to graduation, including Allie Roehrenbeck, who led the team in scoring with 49 goals and 22 assists.

Baseball team keyed by strong pitching

The baseball team should feature a solid pitching staff, according to fifth-year coach Jim Collis.

The Vikings were scheduled to open March 24 against Johnstown, but the doubleheader was canceled because of bad weather.

Academy beat Hartley 16-5 in five innings on March 26 and plays host to Shekinah Christian on Thursday, March 29.

"One of our strengths is going to be pitching," Collis said. "We don't have anybody that is really overpowering, that's going to blow the ball by anybody, but there are certain kids who can hit spots, work a game and manage a game pretty well. We have five or six kids that can do that, so we're as deep as we've ever been since I've taken over the program, from a pitching perspective."

Academy finished 15-8 overall last season, losing to Bloom-Carroll 7-4 in a Division III district final after postseason wins over Caledonia River Valley (6-5) and Fredericktown (8-7).

The Vikings tied Granville for third (9-5) in the MSL-Ohio Division, behind Newark Catholic (12-2) and Heath (10-4) and ahead of Bexley (7-7), Lakewood (4-10), Whitehall (3-11) and Licking Valley (2-12).

Senior Stephen Casey, who was 5-1 with a 4.27 ERA last season, should lead the pitching staff. He batted .314 last season and also will play left field.

"We will be pretty strong," Casey said. "We lost a lot of talent from last year's team, but I think we will be able to get some of it back in the underclassmen. We hope to make it further this year than any other year. We have lost in the district championship the past two years, so hopefully we can make it back this year and win it."

Collis said sophomore Charlie Watters is emerging as the team's No. 2 pitcher. He also will play first base.

Other pitchers are seniors Zach Ratcliff (1B/3B/OF) and James Frye (C), sophomore Garrett Levine (1B) and freshman Scott Mackenzie (1B).

Ratcliff, who batted .395 last season, has verbally committed to play baseball at Ohio State.

Frye batted .378 last season.

Ratcliff was second-team all-league and Casey was honorable mention all-league.

Also back is senior center fielder R.J. Watters, who has verbally committed to play baseball at Northwestern. R.J. and Charlie Watters are brothers.

Sophomore Spencer York will play shortstop.

Sophomore second baseman Lee Solomon, who batted .305 last season, is expected to return early in the season after breaking his jaw during a preseason practice.

Other players looking to contribute are seniors Christian Amland (C/OF), Zach Mercer (1B) and Matt Tamarkin (2B/OF) and junior Brandon Dickes (OF/C).

"Our weakness is offensive production," Collis said. "I'm not sure what we have coming up at the plate. I feel pretty good with our first five guys and after that it's a crapshoot."