Following the loss of 17 players to graduation and having a new coach, the returnees for the Watterson High School boys lacrosse team understood the importance of this past offseason.
According to senior defender Frank Jobko, the work put in by the Eagles should begin paying off at some point this spring.
"The team has come together a lot since the start of the season," Jobko said. "Everyone put a ton of work in during the offseason because they knew things weren't going to be like they were last year. Losing 17 seniors, with most of them being starters, was hard, and the team knew that. The guys came together and push each other a lot in each practice and treat every drill like it's a game.
"My hope, and I know it's the same for a lot of guys, is that we can repeat what we did last year and go farther in the tournament, and especially for the seniors, leave the program with a legacy and watch the younger guys grow and get better."
Watterson, which finished 18-2 overall and reached a Division II state semifinal last season, opened with losses to Worthington Kilbourne (11-6 on March 17) and Delaware (13-8 on March 24) before beating Hilliard Darby 12-6 on March 27.
Chris Sauter, an assistant the past five seasons under former coach Tom Foley, took over as head coach last August.
His first team has nine seniors but few players with significant varsity experience.
Jobko was named second-team all-Region 7 last season for the Eagles, who also won the CCL at 2-0.
Also returning are junior Barrett Baur (defender) and sophomores Dominic Dean (attacker) and Max Ritchey (midfielder).
"We have some young guys that haven't had an opportunity to play, and I felt like we got better (against Kilbourne)," Sauter said. "We'll be leaning on (Baur, Dean, Jobko and Ritchey)."
Junior Max Balyeat has taken over as goalkeeper after senior Dominic Elmo, who was first-team all-region a year ago, transferred to Dublin Coffman during the offseason.
Also on defense are seniors Jacob Bruening and Connor Whitacre, while freshman Henry Blevins is at long-stick midfielder.
Junior attacker Patrick Hall had two goals against Kilbourne.
Other key players include seniors Ray Davis (midfielder), Paul Hamlett (attacker) and Jacob Passino (defender), juniors Nick Jannot (midfielder) and Cam Steller (midfielder) and sophomores Max Graham (midfielder) and Ben Wilson (midfielder).
Hamlett had four goals against Darby, while Hall, Graham and Steller each scored two.
Sophomore Jacob Comer is the backup goalie. Also on the team are seniors Keegan Logdon (defender), Nicholas Manuel (attacker) and Joe Quinn (midfielder) and junior Noah Schnegg (attacker).
"We're very excited about the freshmen and sophomores we have on the team," Sauter said. "We've got some very skilled players. They lack a lot of varsity game experience, but we're extremely excited about the potential, for sure. We'll definitely rely on the upperclassmen."
Girls lacrosse team also has new coach
The girls lacrosse team also has a new coach in Joe Gavin, who was the boys junior varsity coach the past four seasons.
Gavin took over during the offseason for Karen Bailey after she guided Watterson to a 29-11-1 mark in two seasons. Last spring, the Eagles finished 16-5 overall and reached a Division I regional semifinal.
Watterson opened with wins over Westerville Central (12-9 on March 19) and Pickerington North (10-4 on March 22) before falling to Olentangy Liberty (16-7 on March 24) and Pickerington Central (12-11 on March 26). The Eagles dropped to 2-3 with a 6-5 loss to DeSales in their CCL and Central Independent League openers March 27.
"It's going pretty well," Gavin said. "We do have a young team with only five seniors, so it's definitely a lot of girls that haven't had the varsity experience before that are picking it up this year."
Senior midfielder Nina Buoni, who had 29 goals and eight assists last season when Watterson set the program record for wins, is the top returnee.
Seniors Emma Coleman (attacker), Annie Lucia (midfielder) and Irene Kent (defender) and juniors Lindsay Hull (midfielder) and Erica Melaragno (attacker) are other key returnees. Last season, Melaragno had 17 goals and seven assists and Coleman had 12 goals and 19 assists.
Other key players include senior Isabella Gray (defender), juniors Regan Abahazie (goalie), Lauren Dondero (midfielder), Anna Molnar (defender), Paige Parker (defender) and Payton Whittaker (midfielder), sophomores Margaret Baur (attacker) and Abby Giesler (attacker) and freshman Sidney Johnson (defender).
"We think we have the opportunity to compete with the top teams in our division," Gavin said. "We're a young team, so our personal goals are to work on player development and get a lot of these girls up to speed and competing so that over the next couple years we'll be ready to go. The strength of our team is our sophomores and juniors."
Juniors to lead boys volleyball team
With several sophomores taking on key roles last season, the boys volleyball team improved by five wins over the previous season and went 8-14 overall.
The Eagles, who opened March 27 with a 25-19, 23-25, 26-24, 25-15 loss to St. Charles in a CCL match, have just one senior in right-side hitter Luke Lawson but figure to continue the strides they took last season.
"Last year, the majority of our team were sophomores, and now we've got a bunch of juniors with experience, which is going to be awesome," second-year coach Ryan Thompson said. "We grew as a team, for sure, both physically and mentally, which will definitely show a lot in our results. We're expecting to build on (last season) and hopefully get over .500."
Juniors Rob Agan (6-foot-5) and Jack Brinkman (6-1) should see most of the action at middle hitter.
Freshman Jake Maziarz, who has significant club experience, is the setter.
Juniors Lucas Mariotti and Jake Page are at outside hitter, with juniors Brendan Foley and Jared Sommer at libero. Foley is out with an injury but could return later this season, according to Thompson.
Juniors Ethan Burchard (middle hitter/setter) and Zac Pardi (outside hitter) are others looking to contribute.
"We're a very versatile team," Thompson said. "We've got guys that can jump into any position. They're all still really learning the game at this level, and that's what we're focusing on, to help them to know the strengths and weaknesses of their teammates. We're becoming a very good ball-control team. Offensively, stuff still needs to click down the road, but we're getting close to making that happen."
March 17 – at Worthington Kilbourne
March 24 – at Delaware
March 27 – at Hilliard Darby
April 7 – Cincinnati Indian Hill at Otterbein
April 9 – at Cincinnati Mariemont
April 11 – at Bexley
April 19 – at Olentangy Orange
April 21 – Upper St. Clair (Pa.) at Otterbein
April 25 – at Cincinnati Summit Country Day
May 1 – at Pickerington Central
*May 4 – at DeSales
*May 10 – St. Charles at Otterbein
March 19 – at Westerville Central
March 22 – at Pickerington North
March 24 – Olentangy Liberty at Otterbein
March 26 – at Pickerington Central
*March 27 – at DeSales
*April 10 – Bexley at Otterbein
April 11 – Westerville North at Westerville South
April 13 – at Upper Arlington
*April 16 – at Granville
*April 19 – at Columbus Academy
April 20 – at Whetstone
April 21 – TBA in Hannigan-Galipault Tournament at Thomas Worthington
April 24 – Westerville North at Otterbein
*April 26 – at Columbus School for Girls
April 28 – at Hilliard Darby
May 1 – at Gahanna
*May 3 – Hartley at Otterbein
May 8 – Thomas Worthington at Otterbein
*May 10 – at Wellington
May 11 – Dublin Coffman at Otterbein
*March 27 – vs. St. Charles
April 3 – at Northland
April 4 – at Upper Arlington
April 6 – at Pickerington Central with Worthington Kilbourne and Westerville Central
*April 10 – at DeSales
April 12 – at Briggs
*April 17 – at St. Charles
*April 20 – vs. DeSales
April 24 – vs. Licking Heights
April 27 – vs. Briggs
May 1 – at New Albany
May 3 – vs. Northland
May 7 – at Westerville North
May 10 – vs. Whetstone
May 11 – at Gahanna
May 12 – Middletown Fenwick Tournament
May 16 – at Licking Heights
May 17 – at Worthington Kilbourne
Below are the coming schedules for the Watterson baseball, softball, boys tennis and track & field teams:
April 5 – Elizabeth (N.J.) at Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
April 6 – Shepherdsville (Ky.) North Bullitt at Ripken Experience
April 10 – Home vs. Gahanna
*April 11 – Home vs. DeSales
April 5 – Staten Island (N.Y.) St. Joseph Hill and Audubon (N.J.) at Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach
April 6 – Grayson (Ky.) East Carter at Ripken Experience
*April 9 – At Ready
*April 11 – At Hartley
April 10 – At Village Academy
April 11 – Home vs. Dublin Scioto
TRACK & FIELD
April 7 – Red Edwards Golden Eagle Relays at Big Walnut
April 10 – At Marysville