Ahead of the opener at Olentangy Orange on March 19, sixth-year Delaware Hayes High School boys lacrosse coach John Lyon said he wasn't sure what type of season he expected from his team.
Following a 6-1 win over the Pioneers, he felt a little better about his squad, but stressed that the Pacers' offensive execution and passing needs to be a lot crisper before the home opener against Watterson on Monday, March 25.
"We've got a lot of work to do to get better, but this was a good starting point in terms of getting a win and getting an overall look at things," he said. "We had too many bad passes and far too many turnovers, but it's a good thing to have things to work on in practice.
"(Defensively) we rode hard and got turnovers back and we have a good defense and a great goalkeeper back there in (junior) Tyler Carney."
Carney made nine saves and junior attacker Brystin Coldiron had two goals and an assist against Orange. Sophomore midfielder Blake Eiland also had two goals and senior midfielder Connor Prenger added a goal and an assist.
"I think this is going to be one of our best defenses in recent history," said Carney, a second-year starter. "If we keep communicating and flying around, it'll be tough to get much by us. I think (the game against Orange) showed what we're capable of defensively. It was a good start to what we think will be a great season. We want to win the OCC(-Cardinal Division) and reach (the Division I) state (tournament)."
The Pacers are coming off a season in which they finished 12-7 overall, went 4-2 in the OCC-Cardinal to place third behind Worthington Kilbourne (6-0) and Dublin Jerome (5-1) and lost to Jerome 11-6 in a Division I, Region 1 quarterfinal.
Delaware opens league play April 4 at Thomas.
Also among a large group of returnees are seniors Michael Gladden (midfielder), Sam Lagando (midfielder), Andrew Lyon (attacker), Hunter Piroska (attacker) and Xavier Yates (defender), juniors Colby Cooper (long-pole midfielder), Tyler David (defender) and Luke Jackson (midfielder) and sophomores Clay Knight (long-pole midfielder) and Ryan Smudz (attacker).
Lyon said the Pacers have implemented a quicker offense this season, designed to move the ball more quickly and take advantage of any mismatches gained.
"We have a number of guys who can score, so we're not going to rely on just a few guys to do the bulk of the scoring," Lyon said. "We want to use good spacing and move the ball and try to get the mismatches, but we've got to execute and pass better than we did (against Orange)."
Coldiron thinks the Pacers will get sharper quickly.
"We've got a good group and we play well together," he said. "Most of us have been playing together since fourth grade. The main thing we have to work on is converting shots. We had a lot of shots we missed (against Orange), but that's going to change. I think we're going to be pretty good offensively and we've got a good defense, so this should be a good season."
Girls lacrosse team seeks improvement
The girls lacrosse team hopes to continue the growth it made last season when it finished 7-10 overall after going 3-14 in 2017.
"We've got a strong group of upperclassmen, although we have just a handful of seniors," second-year coach Katie Barnhart said. "But the young girls are just learning the basic fundamentals and that can make it tough for us to scrimmage, which is why we made the varsity play left-handed (March 20) in practice."
The Pacers were 1-1 before playing Westerville Central on March 21. They opened March 16 with a 9-8 loss at Hilliard Davidson before defeating Big Walnut 11-10 on March 19 at home.
Returning seniors are Piper Adkins (midfielder), Josie Derstine (midfielder), Sophia Fasone (defender), Myiah Grossman (midfielder), Morgan Miller (attacker) and Libbie Price (defender).
Among other returnees are junior Elissia Willis (defender) and sophomores Bella McCloskey (midfielder), Lillie Tope (defender) and Gabrielle Wreckerley (goalie).
"We're working on being faster in transition and playing with a quicker pace to raise our level of competitiveness," Barnhart said. "We're getting better, but we still have to get much better fundamentally.
"We're trying to be quicker in transition, but in doing so, we've struggle with seeing the whole field. We've got tunnel vision to the goal and we're not moving the ball (while) keeping our heads up. You have to be able to see the defense and your teammates."
Barnhart said the Pacers' defense is improving.
"I think Gabrielle Wreckerley has taken a big step forward from being a freshman goalkeeper last year and we're trying to do some things to help us by putting a defender in our attack and another at midfield," Barnhart said. "We're trying to slow our opponents' transition as best as possible and the girls are learning to move their feet and communicate better."
Barnhart said junior Faith Barksdale and freshman Adrianna Simental have added support on defense and McCloskey has been solid in the midfield.
The Pacers are seeking their first OCC-Cardinal win after finishing 0-6 in the league each of the past two seasons. They went 1-3 in the OCC-Capital in 2016.
Delaware opens league play April 4 at home against Thomas Worthington.
"It's a tough league with some good programs and we're still trying to become more competitive and take this program up to their level," Barnhart said. "We've got to continue to work hard to improve fundamentals and just get better."
Below are the coming schedules for the Delaware Hayes baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
March 30 -- Home vs. Bloom-Carroll (DH)
March 25 -- Home vs. Watterson
March 27 -- Home vs. Medina
March 29 -- At Brunswick
March 30 -- At Mentor
March 25 -- At Chillicothe
March 28 -- Home vs. Whetstone
March 24 -- Oak Harbor at Cocoa Beach, Fla.
March 25 -- Perrysburg and Pemberville Eastwood at Cocoa Beach
March 26 -- Willoughby South at Cocoa Beach
March 28 -- Ashwaubenon (Wisc.) at Cocoa Beach
March 25 -- Home vs. Mount Vernon
TRACK & FIELD
March 30 -- Wildcat Invitational at Newark
March 25 -- Home vs. Reynoldsburg