Starting over after winning a state championship is nothing new for the Upper Arlington High School girls lacrosse team, but this year's revamp is extreme by its standards.
Only three starters return as UA seeks its fifth consecutive Division I state title, which means this season begins unlike many before it. The Golden Bears opened March 21 with an 8-5 loss at DeSales, snapping a 42-game winning streak and a string of 76 wins in a row against in-state competition.
"We haven't lost this many starters any time I can think of recent history by any means," eighth-year coach Wendy Pinta said. "It's a case where we as coaches have to talk about what it is that we should have accomplished by now and what we haven't accomplished by now, that they need to be listening when they're out and paying attention so we don't have to reteach and recorrect mistakes made by teammates just moments (before). We really have no time to waste."
Senior attacker Sophie Ballou, junior defender Nina Akins and junior midfielder Ellena Schildmeyer are the returning starters for UA, which went 24-0 overall and defeated New Albany 11-5 in the state final last season. Ballou had 25 goals and seven assists last year and Schildmeyer added 20 goals and 27 assists.
Schildmeyer had two goals against DeSales. Senior attacker Emma Lutman, junior attacker Riley Kuehn and sophomore midfielder Annie Hargraves each scored one.
"We've had to focus on learning plays (and) learning defenses, just a lot of the basics to make sure everyone knew how to get everything down, have standard lacrosse basics ingrained before we do anything else," Schildmeyer said. "We've really grown as a program and a group. We have a lot of potential."
Senior Amanda Strayton takes over as starting goalkeeper after splitting time with 2018 graduate Katie Shrodes last year. Strayton made 25 saves on 57 shots (43.9 percent).
"My biggest strength is definitely visualization of the field," Strayton said. "I feel like I help a lot with calling slides on defense. That's probably my strong suit. So is communication."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Julia Corna (defender) and Jamie Stummer (defender), juniors Cassidy Badgeley (defender), Kaylee Barrett (defender), Joey Fowler (defender), Molly Kershner (defender), Sydney Rose (attacker) and Madie White (defender), sophomores Paris Alexander (attacker), Delaney Evans (defender), Clara Gallapoo (midfielder) and Ava Walters (attacker) and freshmen Rian Adkins (attacker) and Camryn Callaghan (midfielder).
"Certainly our speed and athleticism stand out. We have a core group of defenders ready to step in and take some positions that were left vacant," Pinta said. "I feel strongly about our defensive core unit. Where we have the least amount of experience this year playing-wise is on attack. We have to learn quickly."
UA's next game is its OCC-Central Division opener against Pickerington Central on April 4 at Tremont Elementary School. The Bears' home games will be at Tremont this year while Marv Moorehead Stadium is rebuilt as part of construction for the new high school.
UA went 6-0 in the league last year, finishing one game ahead of runner-up Dublin Coffman (5-1).