Although its top two scorers graduated, the Watterson High School girls lacrosse team entered the offseason expecting to return most of its key players.
A large freshman class means that an even bigger youth movement is occurring this spring for the Eagles, who have a new coach in former assistant A.J. English.
A 2011 Watterson graduate, English served as an assistant last season in the program's only season under Joe Gavin when the Eagles went 7-12.
"So far, it's been great," English said. "We've got a lot of great young talent. We've got a big freshmen class with eight of my 20 girls being freshman, so it's a great freshman class. I've got four seniors and one happens to be a goalie."
Watterson opened with losses to Olentangy (14-13 on March 14) and Dublin Coffman (11-8 on March 18) before beating Westerville North 17-11 on March 21 and Westerville Central 19-14 on March 23.
The Eagles open Central Independent League action Tuesday, April 2, at Wellington and CCL action April 11 at home against DeSales.
"We played Olentangy and we ended up losing by one, but the girls played amazing," English said. "I'm really looking forward to the future."
Watterson has four seniors in Regan Abahazie (goalkeeper), Erica Melaragno (attacker), Anna Molnar (defender) and Payton Whitacre (midfielder). Melaragno had 23 goals last season.
Other attackers looking to fill key roles are freshmen Hope Adams and McKenna Twombley.
Midfielder Margaret Baur and attacker Abbey Geisler are juniors who scored 21 and 16 goals, respectively, last season. Sophomore attacker Victoria Alves also has returned after scoring 16 goals a year ago.
Sophomore Alex Piccolo and freshman Zoe Coleman, who scored five goals against Coffman, are other key midfielders, while joining Molnar as starting defenders are junior Sydney Johnson, sophomore Caroline Slater and freshman Abbie Foltz.
The backup goalie is sophomore Aubrey Bower.
Others on the team are junior midfielders Hope Adams, Emily Dixon and Emma Johnson, sophomores Molly Balyeat (defender), Bridget Korn (attacker) and Krishna Patel (defender) and freshmen Brooke Biagi (defender), Maria Decaminada (attacker), Molly Griffith (defender) and Caroline Smith (defender).
The biggest losses to graduation were Nina Buoni and Emma Coleman, who had 46 and 33 goals, respectively, last season.
Boys lacrosse team feeling enthusiastic
The boys lacrosse team returns key players at numerous spots on the field and has a year of experience under second-year coach Chris Sauter.
In some ways, though, there is a fresh excitement throughout the program.
"There's a lot of good stuff going on at Watterson with them putting turf down (at the practice field)," Sauter said. "Next year, we'll be able to play games there. We've got new gold, shiny, metallic helmets, so it's just a different look for us. I'm real excited about what's going on."
Watterson opened March 16 with a 10-9 loss to Worthington Kilbourne before beating Dublin Scioto 12-6 on March 19. The Eagles play their CCL opener April 25 against DeSales at Fortress Field.
Watterson lost nine players to graduation after going 10-7 last season, but returns its leading scorer, junior attacker Dominic Dean, who had 65 goals and 32 assists a year ago. Dean scored four goals in each of the first two games this season.
Another key offensive leader is junior midfielder Max Ritchey, who scored three goals against both Kilbourne and Scioto.
Other key midfielders are senior Cam Stellar and junior Nick Jannot, with sophomore Henry Blevins at long-stick midfielder.
Other key defenders include seniors Barrett Baur and Adam Grden and junior Preston Barnes, with senior Max Balyeat at goalie.
Senior Patrick Hall and junior Max Graham are other key attackers.
Others looking to contribute include junior Ben Wilson (midfielder), sophomores Andrew Bettendorf (midfielder/attacker), Tanner Mercer (midfielder/attacker) and Keegan Whitacre (midfielder/attacker) and freshmen Jack Henry (mid-fielder/attacker) and Brady White (goalie).
"We took some lumps being a little young last year, but we're a little more prepared to handle our top-loaded varsity schedule this season," Sauter said.
Crotty named girls golf coach
Mike Crotty recently was named girls golf coach, replacing Debbie Weis, who stepped down after four seasons.
Crotty has been coaching the sport since 1966 and has been a PGA certified pro working at various clubs throughout central and southern Ohio for more than 40 years.
"Mike is the president of the Central District Girls Golf Coaches Association and has been one of the premier junior golf instructors in central Ohio for over 30 years," athletics director Doug Etgen said. "We feel very fortunate to bring Mike in to coach our girls. His passion and his reputation as an excellent teacher of the game are exemplary."
Below are the coming schedules for the Watterson baseball, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
March 28 -- Chardon and Canton GlenOak at Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
April 3 -- Home vs. Hilliard Bradley
March 29 -- TBA at Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
April 2 -- At Upper Arlington
*April 3 -- At Ready
April 1 -- At Wellington
April 2 -- Home vs. Whetstone
TRACK & FIELD
March 30 -- Newark Invitational
April 3 -- At Centennial
March 30 -- At Kettering Fairmont with Kettering Alter
*April 2 -- At DeSales