Zach Peterson was not expecting to return to coaching this spring, but he knew it was important to step in to lead the Olentangy Orange High School boys lacrosse team.
The Pioneers' coach for the past two seasons, Pat Boyce, died unexpectedly March 5.
Peterson left his position as Olentangy boys lacrosse coach in 2017 to become an assistant principal at Liberty. When he was asked to become the interim coach at Orange, he knew what he had to do.
"We have over 22,000 kids in the district, so you could call us a big district, but we're also really small," Peterson said. "I taught these juniors and seniors Spanish at Orange Middle School, so it comes full circle. A lot of people came together to make a decision for this. I wanted to be here."
The Pioneers, who are off until opening OCC-Buckeye Division play April 4 against Westerville Central, split their first two games after going 10-10 last season. They lost to Delaware 6-1 on March 19 before defeating Berlin 13-6 two days later.
Sophomore midfielder Tanner Hegarty scored five goals and junior attacker Riley Tomechak had three against Berlin. Sophomore attacker John Stearns had two goals and junior goalkeeper Tanner Davidson made three saves after stopping 17 shots against Delaware.
"I took the first week and just observed and it has been a collaborative effort to implement things we agree on," Peterson said. "We threw a lot at (the players) as far as Xs and Os go. The (result against Delaware) isn't the result of how talented this team is or how far it is going to go."
Senior midfielder Mitchell Gifford said there has been a lot to learn, but the players are picking things up quickly.
"We changed how our whole offense works," Gifford said. "We have a lot more moving parts. No one rotated before, but now we have a lot of rotations going. It was a lot to put in, but we will continue to get better."
Peterson said Gifford, senior midfielder Sam Hughes and junior attacker Bo Roby will be the top scoring threats with Hegarty, Stearns and Tomechak adding punch. Roby is the top returning scorer with 21 goals and six assists last season.
"We don't have a set group now and we're trying to find offensive guys," Peterson said. "We're really trying to be fluid and we will probably rotate five or six players in the attack.
"We have a lot of ball movement and we'll try to get guys working together. We want to have motion on offense with assignments changing and that makes it tough on defenses. We will try to put our top six guys on the field at any given time."
Peterson said he likes the team's defensive standouts in junior Zach Hill and seniors Ethan Adkins and Evan Secrist, both of whom have committed to Capital.
Girls lacrosse team returns five starters
New coach Mallory Skrobot has five returning starters for the girls lacrosse team, which hopes to improve on last season's 11-9 finish.
The returnees are senior attacker Maddie Girard, senior defender Taylor Houston, senior goalie Grace McAninch, junior midfielder Hannah Brown and senior Allie Holdcroft, who has moved from midfielder to defender.
Skrobot replaced Megan Noone, who left after four seasons to coach Berlin.
"I think they are a great group overall," Skrobot said. "I think they are extremely coachable and they want to learn and improve. That's one of the things I like to see as a coach.
"I think we have good leaders but also have good leaders in each area: attack, midfield and defense. They are a really good group of girls."
The top scoring threats should be Girard, Brown, senior attacker Tyler Bluvol, junior midfielder/attacker Josie Vance and sophomore midfielder/attacker Jenna Durst.
Freshmen Ella Beck, Emma-Cait Cogan and Lila Xenalis will be key players in the midfield while seniors Devyn Fischer and Gaby Hayes and junior Kaitlin Shane are key defenders.
The Pioneers opened with a 16-4 loss to Pickerington Central on March 18 and lost to Hartley 12-7 on March 21. They play at Pickerington North on Tuesday, April 2, and open OCC-Buckeye play April 4 at Westerville Central.
Skrobot was an assistant at Dublin Jerome in 2016-17 but was an official last season.
"That was a completely different perspective," she said. "It makes you realize how hard it is to be an official in girls lacrosse. As a ref, you have to stay focused and look at things objectively."
Orange seeks to fill two coaching vacancies
Athletics director Buck Weaver is looking for coaches to lead the girls basketball and gymnastics programs.
Gymnastics coach Jen Hedrick was the final coach remaining from the inaugural 2008-09 school year. This winter, she coached both Orange and Berlin, where her daughter, Elise, is a freshman.
"Our district allowed coach Hedrick to coach both schools this year as a transition year," Weaver said. "Moving forward she was only able to continue coaching at one of the schools, and with her kids going to Berlin, it was a no-brainer for her. She is going to be tough to replace, but luckily she is leaving us in a great situation with the program she has built to be stronger than ever."
Bob Scott spent five seasons as girls basketball coach. This season, the Pioneers finished 5-18 overall and 1-9 in the OCC-Buckeye.
"We decided to take the program in a new direction," Weaver said.
Below are the coming schedules for the Orange baseball, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
March 30 -- At Nashville (Tenn.) Ensworth
April 2 -- Home vs. Grove City
April 2 -- At Pickerington North
April 1 -- Home vs. Buckeye Valley
April 3 -- Home vs. Big Walnut
April 1 -- At Dublin Coffman
April 3 -- At Wellington
TRACK & FIELD
March 30 -- Newark Invitational
April 3 -- Home vs. DeSales, Franklin Heights and St. Charles