Armed with an experienced lineup, the Hilliard Darby High School boys lacrosse team is hoping to continue its upward trend.
The Panthers, who finished 8-8 overall last season after going 2-16 in 2017, have returned 10 players who earned starts a year ago and have 13 seniors on their roster.
"Our team has a mix of inexperienced and experienced players, but that has allowed us to create stronger relationships within the chemistry of our program," 10th-year coach Rob Schmeling said. "We do expect our upperclassmen to lead by example as we have set our team's expectations early in the year. However, we are expecting contributions from all our student-athletes."
The Panthers' starting lineup includes six seniors in attackers Dominic Iosue and Jeremey Koebel, defenders Justen Shaw and Matt Spangler, midfielder Nick Wile and goalkeeper Nathan Sprott.
Juniors Nick Liening (midfielder) and Hunter Wagner (attacker) and sophomore Brad Weaver (defender) also began the season as starters, while senior Jacob Brenneman, sophomore Alan Riggans and freshman Miguel Sayers are contributing in the midfield.
"The development of our young players and their ability to gain confidence in their play at this level will be key for us this year," Schmeling said. "The sooner that happens, the greater success we can achieve."
The Panthers were 1-2 before playing March 26 at Gahanna. They opened March 15 with a 9-5 loss to Westerville Central, then beat Marysville 14-1 on March 18 before losing to Watterson 14-7 on March 21.
Darby opens OCC-Cardinal Division action April 4 at defending league champion Worthington Kilbourne. The Panthers went 2-4 in the league last season.
Also expected to contribute are seniors Jacob Brenneman (midfielder), Luke Fleenor (midfielder), Joe Le (defender), Donovan Schneider (attacker), Ethan Stewart (midfielder), Tyler Teague (midfielder) and Blair Weaver (defender), juniors Creed Galko (midfielder) and Codey Wendel (defender), sophomore Caleb Williams (defender) and freshmen Kaden Ames (attacker), Max Movshin (midfielder) and Brady Smith (goalie).
"I have been pleased with the boys' efforts during preseason workouts, along with their willingness to be coachable," Schmeling said. "We'll need that to continue and for all of them to make their mark in a positive way within our program."
Softball team has six starters back
The softball team has returned six starters, including one of the area's top players in senior shortstop Tegan Cortelletti.
Cortelletti, an Ohio State commit, batted .607 with 38 runs scored, 26 RBI and 18 stolen bases and was named first-team all-league, all-district and all-state last season, when the Panthers finished 14-9 overall and placed third in the OCC-Cardinal at 9-3, behind co-champions Bradley and Delaware (both 10-2).
"Tegan has batted over .600 the past two years and she has extra-base potential with her speed and hitting abilities," fifth-year coach Shawn Papp said. "She will once again lead off for us."
Also returning as starters are seniors Maddi Clark (P), Molly Holdren (CF) and Sydney McCreary (C), junior Lily Garnett-Brown (2B) and sophomore Jordyn Anderson (P).
Last season, Garnett-Brown batted .333 with 18 runs and 26 RBI and was special mention all-league and Holdren hit .316 with 16 runs and 21 RBI and was honorable mention all-league.
"Lily Garnett-Brown hit five home runs last season, which included a grand slam," Papp said. "She adds some pop in the lineup. We also are looking for big things at the plate from Molly Holdren, Sydney McCreary and (junior third baseman) Hannah Hutchinson."
Last season in the circle, Clark went 10-4 with a 3.28 ERA and was second-team all-league.
"Maddi will be in the circle for her fourth year, which brings a lot of experience and Jordyn gained a lot of experience as a freshman," Papp said. "We believe we will get solid pitching and with our defense, that should be the strength of the team. We also believe that we will be able to put the ball in play and force the defense to make plays."
Senior Grace Hill (LF), junior Eliza Dudley (designated player) and sophomore Erin Litten (1B) also are expected to start when Darby opens league play as host to Delaware on Monday, April 1, after competing during spring break this week in Cocoa Beach, Florida.
Sophomore Taylor Clark and freshman Kyrin Enneking are vying for the starting job in right field. Also seeking playing time are senior Lindsey Murgatroyd (OF) and sophomore Ally Rose (3B).
Below are the coming schedules for the Darby baseball, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
April 2 -- At Davidson
April 1 -- Home vs. Chillicothe
*April 4 -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne
*April 1 -- Home vs. Delaware
April 2 -- Home vs. Central Crossing
*April 3 -- At Worthington Kilbourne
*April 2 -- Home vs. Delaware
April 3 -- Home vs. Columbus Academy
*April 4 -- At Worthington Kilbourne
TRACK & FIELD
April 2 -- At Dublin Jerome
*April 2 -- At Worthington Kilbourne