The Pickerington High School North girls lacrosse team has found the right combination for success during the season's first three weeks.

The Pickerington High School North girls lacrosse team has found the right combination for success during the season's first three weeks.

Defensively, the Panthers gave up an average of 8.3 goals over their first six games.

On the offensive side, sophomore Abbey Paulus has emerged as a go-to threat. She had more than 22 goals through six games, including eight in a 16-14 win over Olentangy Orange on April 15.

Paulus scored four in a 19-8 victory over Westerville North on April 21, a game in which sophomore Korri Titus led with five goals.

The Panthers were 5-1 before playing Big Walnut on April 26. The quick start has helped erase the memory of last season when the Pickerington Club team finished 4-11.

"The team is meshing completely well together," said coach Megan Levins, who also coached the Pickerington club team last year. "They've been working hard in practice and their hard work is finally paying off. It's giving them confidence in themselves."

According to Levins, the Panthers' defense has been led by junior Laura Sullivan, sophomores Katie Hunt and Tianna Diyanni, and junior goalkeeper Madeleine Snare, who is new to the sport.

Hunt began playing for Pickerington's youth program while she was in sixth grade and quickly has become a fixture.

"We have a lot of freshmen and only two seniors, so a lot of younger kids have stepped up," Hunt said. "All of us are leaders. None of us are above anybody else. Our defense is doing great. We've done a great job of talking, which is one of the biggest things we've picked up on. We've improved a lot since the beginning of the season on our stick skills. The one thing we need to work on is our ride in the midfield."

Paulus was expected to be among the team's top offensive players after she scored six goals in Pickerington's 18-13 Division I South-Central regional tournament loss last season.

She has lived up to those expectations.

"At the beginning of the season, I thought we weren't going to do too well because we have a lot of new girls coming in, but I think our team camaraderie has been good," Paulus said. "I do a lot of stuff on my own and I've got a lot of good feeders on this team. It's always awesome to score, but any time I can get an assist, it's great for me, too."

•Central girls coach Meghan Ewart was pleased with her team's attitude despite opening 0-3.

"I'm really excited that after we finish a game, they've been coming off the field frustrated, but they're also telling me what we need to fix," Ewart said. "We're getting to the point where we can transition the ball downfield, and now we want to run some plays. They're really starting to also focus on how to defend against a team with a good offense. They're getting it. It's there."

The Tigers entered the season with only two players who competed for Pickerington's club team last year in seniors Rachel Leist and Hannah Walters.

Leist went down with a knee injury in Central's 15-11 loss to Gahanna on April 13.

Walters and freshman Gabrielle Johnson have been among the team's top players early on, according to Ewart.

"We knew going into the season that (Walters) would be a really strong leader," Ewart said. "She's really been stepping into that role in being a supportive captain. Most of my other players are freshmen who will be really great the next couple years.

"We lost Rachel Leist to a torn ACL against Gahanna, which is disappointing for me because I was looking forward to seeing her play more, and also for her because it's her senior year. She's kind of stepped up into sort of being an assistant for me and is still definitely a huge part of the team."

•After a tough start, things have started to come together for the North boys team.

Marc Diemand was hired as coach last October, but he was not able to coach the program for its first five games because of paperwork issues.

Diemand returned to the sidelines for his Panthers' debut during an 8-7 loss to Westerville North on April 21.

It was the second consecutive one-goal loss and the third this season for North, which also fell 13-12 to Bexley in two overtimes April 15.

Against Westerville North, Austin Brady scored three goals, Jay Huffman had two goals and one assist, Travis Huffman had one goal and one assist and Jude Warner had one goal and two assists.

"This was the best game I've seen from us all year," Diemand said. "There were a couple bad breaks or it could have gone either way. I'll take losing like this as opposed to losing to somebody 13-0. I think everybody played well from top to bottom. We gave up a couple suspect goals, but I just thought everybody gave a (great) effort."