Steve Palmer knows success isn't measured solely by victories, but the ninth-year Big Walnut High School girls lacrosse coach hopes his team can build off last season when it set the program record for wins.
The Golden Eagles finished 7-11 overall a year ago and have higher expectations this season.
"Over the last two years, each year we've won one more game," said Palmer, whose team finished 6-10-1 in 2017. "That's obviously the plan this year, and if we could win even more, that would be awesome. But we need to keep showing some steady improvement."
Big Walnut was 0-2 before playing Gahanna on March 21. The Golden Eagles opened March 15 with a 14-6 loss to Dublin Scioto and lost to Delaware 11-10 on March 19.
Big Walnut had three shots in the last 20 seconds against Delaware but was unable to tie the score. Freshman attacker Peyton Deverso led the team with four goals.
The Golden Eagles' offense is expected to be led by their all-time leading scorer, senior midfielder Cassady Becker, who scored 51 goals last season and had 121 for her career before playing Gahanna.
Palmer also has been impressed with the play of Deverso and freshman midfielder Ashley Fisher.
"The good news is we have a senior leading us in scoring goals, but the better news is you have freshmen competing up there, too," Palmer said.
Others who should help with the offensive production are senior attackers Audrey Rice and Laurel Erick.
Other key players include senior midfielder Meri Buckles, junior midfielders Kimmie Serna and Lauren Murphy, senior defenders Meagan Helber and Gabrielle Mellen and junior goalkeeper Aubrey Logue.
"The good news is we're a mix of older and younger players," Palmer said. "The bad news is those younger players aren't tested yet. Until we get four or five games in, I don't think you'll see their true colors with that adjustment period."
Big Walnut's next game isn't until April 4, when it opens OCC-Buckeye Division action at home against Westerville North. The Golden Eagles went 1-6 in the league last season to finish seventh behind champion New Albany (7-0).
While its regular-season schedule primarily consists of Division I opponents, Big Walnut will compete in Division II in the postseason, as it did last year.
Culture changing for boys lacrosse team
Second-year boys lacrosse coach Michael Brunner has noticed a shift in attitude as his team looks to improve on last season when it finished 4-12 overall.
"I like our effort, and (the players) all want to get better," Brunner said. "I think that's a big change for us. In the past, Big Walnut's program has been very much like a hobby, and I think the culture is changing."
Eight seniors lead the group, including five returning starters in Sam Elliott (midfielder), Josh Hageman (goalie), Judah Lozano (attacker), Nathan Montgomery (midfielder) and Aidan Rond (defender).
Junior attacker Sam Metz-ger, who played in the midfield last season, had three goals in a 13-5 loss to Licking Valley in the team's opener March 16.
Also back in the middle is junior John Grumney.
"Offensively, we're continuing to progress," Brunner said. "As we continue to improve skill-wise and build our passing and catching and develop our shooting, we're going to score more. ... We had the looks against Licking Valley, but we didn't capitalize on them."
Junior defender Tyler Paul also is a leader, Brunner said. Sophomores Matt Fry, Braden Keck, Sam Smith and Cole Wecker are other defenders.
"We definitely are stronger defensively, and we have the benefit of being young defensively, so we will continue to be strong moving forward," Brunner said.
Big Walnut, which played at Hilliard Bradley on March 23, opens OCC-Buckeye action April 4 at Westerville North. The Golden Eagles went 0-7 in the league last season to finish eighth behind champion Olentangy (7-0).
"It's going to be a tough (league) schedule," Brunner said. "We're the little brother."
Below are the coming schedules for the Big Walnut baseball, boys lacrosse and softball teams:
March 25-29 -- TBA at The Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
March 26 -- Home vs. Pickerington North
March 28 -- At Johnstown
March 30 -- At Bexley
March 26 -- At Worthington Kilbourne
March 27 -- Home vs. Whitehall
March 30 -- At Dublin Scioto