If the first game of the season was any indication, the Pickerington High School North girls lacrosse team is living up to some of coach Christine Miller's early expectations.

Senior midfielder Sophie Zimmerman's four goals paced the Panthers to a 12-8 win at Olentangy Berlin on March 19, leading six players who scored at least one goal. The Walsh recruit also was key on offense last season, when North finished 10-7 overall and 3-3 in the OCC-Central Division, and Miller hopes that will be the case again for a team that features four college recruits and six seniors.

"We are always working on improving our ball movement and shot placement on goal. We need to get the ball in the back of the net," said Miller, who is in her third season. "We are working on the mental piece of the game as well and making smart plays. We need to see the field and to open up opportunities and then take them in the moment."

Other top returnees include seniors Taylor Beretich (defender), Olivia Davis (attacker), Sarah Pinkerton (defender) and Kenzie Rogers (midfielder) and juniors Elise Drager (midfielder/attacker) and Rylie Jarvis (defender).

Beretich is a Baldwin Wallace recruit. Davis will play at Mount Union and Rogers has signed with The University of the Cumberlands.

Sophomore Erin Boder will be the starting goalkeeper for the second consecutive season.

"We have many returners on defense, so I feel that our defense is a strength for us again this year," Miller said. "Our midfield is also doing a much better job on transitions and moving the ball up the field more quickly. This gives us the opportunity to get into our offense more effectively. Offensively, we also have many returning players that will give us the opportunity to score."

Rounding out the roster are seniors Grace Cherryhomes (defend-er/midfielder), Avery Hart (midfielder/defender) and Lexie Johnson (attacker), juniors Briana Cavendish (attacker/midfielder), Jenevieve Folson (defender), Lauren Gill (midfielder/goalie), Danielle Hassel (attacker), Jessica Howell (defender), Sonya Jerrome (attacker), Emma Perry (attacker), Brennan Santa (midfielder), Mariel Wilkerson (defender) and Paige Wilson (midfielder), sophomores Emma Boder (attacker), Emi Casimir (defender) and Sydney Hopkins (midfielder) and freshmen Ryona Gilmore (defender/midfielder), Emma Rittman (midfielder/attacker) and Arden Santa (defender).

Cherryhomes, Gilmore, Hart, Hopkins and Rittman will be swing players between varsity and junior varsity. The program has a total of 45 players, 18 of whom are on junior varsity.

"(Having a large program) gives us options that we have not had in the past. We were able to split into two teams this year, which allows for more girls to get playing time and experience," Miller said. "We will not have as many swing players as in the past. This allows each team to develop its own chemistry and to work towards its own goals."

North resumed its season March 26 at Hartley. The Panthers' home opener is Tuesday, April 2, against Olentangy Orange, and they begin OCC-Central play two days later at Gahanna.

North finished fourth in the league last year behind champion Upper Arlington (6-0).

Boys lacrosse coach excited for growth

Second-year boys lacrosse coach Tyler Nelson is looking for specific improvements from last year's team that went 8-9 overall and 3-4 in the OCC-Central.

"The main improvement I want to see is (from) how we performed last year (for an) entire game," Nelson said. "We would often go in spurts or droughts when it came to effort. I would like an even 100 percent this year from the players. I know they are more than capable of it. ...

"(Another of) our strengths this year will be the amount of experience that all our players have from being a young team last year. I am extremely excited to see how our offense will fare."

Junior attacker Ethan Ke-velder scored five goals in the Panthers' season-opening 10-6 loss at St. Charles on March 15. Senior midfielder Larry Martin scored North's other goal and sophomore goalie Josh Smith had eight saves.

North lost to Cincinnati Walnut Hills 14-6 in its home opener March 22 and was 0-2 before playing Big Walnut on March 26.

Nelson also expects Martin, junior Keaton Trout (midfielder/attacker) and sophomore Steven McElroy (faceoff specialist/midfielder) to be offensive leaders.

"Our ability to remove a 'hero'-like mentality for offensive play is gone and we have greatly developed our ability to have more of a team game," Nelson said. "With our first-year goalie last year being our starting goalie this year, it's been a night-and-day difference for him and I am excited at his potential. Josh really put in the time all summer getting himself better. I can't wait to see what we get out of him."

Rounding out the roster are seniors Bryce Coleman (attacker), Jimmy McBride (midfielder), Hunter Parrish (midfielder/faceoff specialist), Pace Warner (attacker) and Carson White (defender), juniors Nate Bosworth (defender), Jaden Bussom (defender), Robert Carpenter (mid-fielder/faceoff specialist), A.J. Dinsmore (midfielder), Quinn Parlette (defender), Trevor Rogers (defender/long-stick midfielder) and Adam Smathers (defender), sophomores Reid Bender (defender/long-stick midfielder), Justin Cook (attacker/midfielder), Jacob Guentter (midfielder), Garret Newcome (defender), Kalib Severt (attacker/midfielder) and Connor Shook (midfielder) and freshmen Braeden Coleman (defender), Mackston Reed (midfielder) and Bennet Trout (attacker).

North finished fifth in the OCC-Central last year behind champion Dublin Coffman (7-0). The Panthers begin league play April 4 at home against Gahanna.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the North baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:

BASEBALL

March 28 -- Home vs. Teays Valley

March 30 -- Home vs. Lakewood

April 2 -- Home vs. Briggs

April 3 -- Home vs. DeSales

BOYS LACROSSE

March 28 -- Home vs. Westerville North

March 30 -- At Dublin Scioto

GIRLS LACROSSE

March 28 -- At Bexley

April 2 -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange

SOFTBALL

March 30 -- Home vs. London and Sparta Highland

April 1 -- Home vs. New Albany

April 3 -- At Westerville North

BOYS TENNIS

March 28 -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne

April 1 -- Home vs. Logan Elm

April 2 -- At Groveport

April 3 -- At Olentangy

TRACK & FIELD

March 29 -- Panther Invitational at home

April 2 -- At Hilliard Bradley

BOYS VOLLEYBALL

*March 28 -- At Upper Arlington

*April 2 -- Home vs. Gahanna

*League contest