After finishing 13-4 overall a year ago, the Olentangy High School girls lacrosse team enters this season brimming with confidence.

After finishing 13-4 overall a year ago, the Olentangy High School girls lacrosse team enters this season brimming with confidence.

The Braves return several key players from last year's squad, which defeated Richfield Revere 11-8 in its Division II North/Central Region tournament opener before losing to Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown 17-9 in a semifinal.

"When I first started coaching, I was thinking, 'Wow, these girls are really good,'" said second-year coach Chelsea Huguenard, whose team opens Tuesday, March 27, at home against Olentangy Orange. "But they didn't believe it. It took them a long time to believe they could win.

"We're already building off that. Our upperclassmen still have that sense they can do great things."

The 13 wins matched the most in program history. In 2005, the Braves won the Division II state championship with a 14-13 victory over Mason to finish 13-9 overall. Olentangy had lost in the first round of the postseason every season since, until last year.

Olentangy went 6-0 in the OCC-Ohio Division last season to win the league title ahead of Orange (3-2), Olentangy Liberty (3-2), Hilliard Davidson (3-3), Dublin Jerome (2-4), Hilliard Bradley (2-4) and Dublin Scioto (1-5). A game between Liberty and Orange was postponed because of bad weather and never rescheduled.

The Braves lost nine 2011 graduates from their attack including Melissa Gundling, who was first-team all-league and second-team all-region.

However, Huguenard believes this team might be a little better.

Junior Mallory Quiggle, sophomores Rachel Dannenhauer and Rachel Dietz and freshman Stevie Jefferis lead the attack. Seniors Danielle Bullock and Amelia Gundling, juniors Christine Campbell, Katie Huter and Emily Watson, sophomores Mackenzie Freeman, Emilie Laubenthal, Alyssa Lucas and Allie Pridham and freshman Katie Stegmann will play in the midfield.

"We're going to be scoring a lot more goals this year," Huguenard said. "Last year, we had a couple of people who wanted to score goals. We're seeing a lot more girls who are really driven to score goals."

The Braves have two seniors in returning defenders Elizabeth Bargdill and Jordan Endres. Sophomore Emily Petrole and Madison Barnes are competing for time at goalkeeper. Juniors Hannah Laubenthal, Megan Lusk, Ann Murrell, Kyrsten Reardon and Emily Wall, sophomores Allison Bartel and Chelsea Cousins and freshman Alexandra McCafferty also are expected to play key roles on defense.

"Defensively, we lost our whole defensive line," Huguenard said. "For them, it's about ... learning to trust each other again on defense."

Patriots looking to play complete games

If Liberty players remember one thing from last season, fifth-year coach Abby Osborn hopes it is how they finished games.

"We learned how to play an entire game," said Osborn, whose team opens Tuesday, March 27, at Jerome. "The key for us this season is going to be keeping up the intensity and the determination through each game and practice. We need to be working hard and staying focused on what we spent the entire offseason training for."

The Patriots finished last season with a program-best record of 10-4-1 overall. They defeated Delaware 17-4 in a play-in game of the Division I North/Central Region tournament and lost to Thomas Worthington 21-10 in the first round.

Liberty went 4-1-1 last season in games decided by two goals or fewer. In 2010, the team went 1-7 in those situations.

After the Patriots opened last season with a 9-7 loss to Davidson, they held a team meeting.

"We realized we can either have a season like we had the year before or we can turn it around and do what we need to do," Osborn said. "We ended up having the best record in program history."

The Patriots should have a strong attack with the return of seniors Mallory Murphy and Kylee Wetterauer and juniors Abby Cook, Rachel Henderson and Jayne Van Schaik. Osborn also is expecting contributions from freshmen Dani Bursinger and Megan Maitino.

Senior Alexis Ecker leads the midfield with support from juniors Eileen Barrett, Taylor Boll and Kylie Spring, sophomore Erin Hedrick and freshman Kelley Fitzgerald.

"Alexis, Kylee and Eileen Barrett have all been on varsity since they were freshmen," Osborn said. "They play well together and they have the ability to guide the team to do the right things on the field."

Returning to the defense are senior Tori Springer and juniors Natalie Durtschi, Sabra Funderburg, Morgan Mallory and Macy Mullen. Senior Juanita Hawkins, junior Jenn Nilsen and sophomore Ellie Schramm also are expected to contribute.

Sophomore Alicia Simpson and freshman Elisse Miller are competing for time at goalkeeper.

Pioneers benefit from last year's injuries

Orange was slowed by injuries last season, but fourth-year coach Jaime Miller believes some good came from it.

While senior Lindsay Spragg (torn anterior cruciate ligament), junior Bailey Castillo (ankle) and 2011 graduates Hana Abu-Kwiek (ankle), Taylor Shifflet (neck and back) and Whitney Draper (foot) all missed action last season, younger players received valuable playing time.

"It definitely opened the doors for our girls to see more time on the field," said Miller, whose team opens Tuesday, March 27, at Olentangy. "It gave them a little more confidence. Once the position is theirs to step into this year, there's a level of comfort that (last year's playing time) helped to provide."

Orange finished 6-9 overall last year, losing to Jerome 24-14 in the first round of the Division II North/Central Region tournament.

Senior Jennie Button, juniors Alix Heitmeyer, Kendra Hopeck and Grace Smith and freshman Lauren Nobile will play attack.

Spragg will play attack and in the midfield with juniors Brittany Barber, Ehlana McCaulley and Maria Nobile. Others who could contribute to the midfield are sophomores Alyssa Combs and Rebecca Keane, who are new to the team, and freshman Jennie Spragg.

"They seem to be very focused on a team approach," Miller said. "They're seeing each other and seeing how they can make things happen."

Castillo and senior Abi Baker will split time in goal with Castillo also serving as a defender.

Seniors Lauren Banton, Katherine Lomeo and Jean Marie Peters and juniors Erica Heitmeyer, Abbie Snyder and Abby Sturmi lead the defense. Juniors Karlee Greene and Leah Haugh are new to the team but are expected to contribute.