Coach Dominique Alexander knew there was hard work ahead with the fledgling Olentangy Berlin High School boys lacrosse program.
His roster has only one player with significant varsity experience in junior midfielder Jack Nebraska, who played at Olentangy last season. However, the Bears have continued to make strides and are ahead of where Alexander believed they would be at this point in the season.
"I was happy with how our team played in the first scrimmage ... until now," said Alexander, who coached Olentangy to a 16-4 record last year in his only season leading the Braves. "We're light years from where I expected us to be."
The Bears were looking for their first win when they played DeSales on March 26. They lost to New Albany 12-5 on March 19 and Orange 13-6 on March 21.
Freshman attacker Gavin Angell had three goals and three assists through two contests, and sophomore attacker Drew Haver had three goals. Sophomore goalkeeper Sam Warner had 19 saves against the Eagles and 18 against the Pioneers.
"We're definitely a young team and things started slowly for us, but we played better once we got our feet under us," said Nebraska, who scored the program's first goal and finished with two goals and one assist in the opener. "Young players like Drew Haver and Gavin Angell have stepped up and made some big plays for us."
The midfield also features junior Logan Bland, sophomore Aadin Cain and freshmen Connor Gavin and Zack Zielinski. Bland and Cain handle face-offs.
The defense is comprised of junior Cayden Pomeroy, sophomore Alex Cunningham and freshmen Julian Dent, Tyler Lambert and David Sexton.
"These guys came in with a clean slate," said Alexander, a former Ohio State player who helped the Ohio Machine win its first MLL championship in 2017. "We used the first couple weeks of practice to see who could do what in terms of athleticism, stick work and lacrosse IQ. That allowed us to lay the foundation and figure out what we could prepare for. We figured out who could do what, who's who and how they could best fit in the program."
The Bears begin OCC-Cardinal Division play April 4 at Dublin Jerome.
Girls lacrosse team splits first two games
The girls lacrosse team needed only two contests to pick up its first victory.
The Bears lost to Pickerington North 12-8 on March 19 before defeating Whetstone 21-2 on March 21. Junior attacker/midfielder Andi Henry, sophomore midfielder Dacey Redman and freshman attacker Libby Cuckler all had five goals against the Braves, and junior Sophia Martel had three saves in goal while junior Bri Hibbits added two.
"We started to have conversations with them in the fall to just enjoy this process (of starting a program)," said coach Megan Noone, who led the Orange girls program the past four seasons. "We told them not to forget where they came from -- mostly Olentangy -- and to cherish those memories but still buy into the process. Two games in, I'm pretty sure they're onboard."
The most experienced player is Henry, who was a starter last season at Olentangy. Junior attacker/defender Izzy Conrad played for the Braves last spring, and sophomore midfielder Jenna Brennan split time between j.v. and varsity at Olentangy.
Brennan had four goals against North.
"I think we're getting better at tracking the ball," Noone said. "We have had increased movement and they have created opportunities for each other."
Sophomore Courtney Suchan will lead a young defensive unit in front of Hibbits and Martel.
"Sophia Martel is a first-year player and really has picked up being in goal well from when she started last fall," Noone said. "Bri was more of a field player at Olentangy, but she wanted to step up and is back in the cage for us."
The Bears return to action Tuesday, April 2, at Olentangy. They open OCC-Cardinal play April 4 against Jerome.
Below are the coming schedules for the Berlin baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
March 28 -- At Lakewood
March 30 -- Home vs. Sparta Highland
April 2 -- Home vs. Bexley
April 3 -- At Marysville
March 28 -- At St. Charles
March 30 -- At Westerville North
April 2 -- Home vs. Olentangy
April 2 -- At Olentangy
March 28 -- At Marion Elgin
March 30 -- Home vs. Berne Union (DH)
*April 1 -- At Dublin Scioto
*April 3 -- Home vs. Hilliard Bradley
*April 2 -- At Scioto
April 3 -- At Westerville North
TRACK & FIELD
April 2 -- At Delaware
*March 28 -- At Scioto
March 30 -- At Briggs
*April 2 -- Home vs. Bradley