Coach Joe Heighway expects things to open up offensively in his second season leading the Westerville North High School girls lacrosse program.
The Warriors return eight starters in seniors Kait Boso (midfielder/attack-er), Gracie Heighway (midfielder), Jenna Morgan (defender) and Kate Smith (defender) and juniors Courtney Hornyak (defender), Paige Miller (attacker), Noel Orioli (midfielder) and Gianna Ricci (attacker).
North is 1-1 as it looks to improve on last season's 8-11 overall record and fifth-place finish (3-4) in the OCC-Buckeye Division behind champion New Albany (7-0).
"This year we have experience coming back with eight starters," coach Heighway said. "They are playing much better as a team. Last year, there was much more individual play and now they are willing to be team players.
"We have more scorers this year with seven girls scoring against Gahanna (in a 12-11 win March 19), and we had five score against Watterson (in a 17-13 loss March 21). Last year, we basically had three scorers in Gracie, Paige and (2018 graduate) Emily (Garee)."
Gracie Heighway, who has committed to Walsh, had four goals against Watterson. Last season, she was honorable mention all-league after scoring 48 goals with 18 assists and 90 ground balls.
"We have a lot more people who are a threat scoring-wise and that allows us to do more with our plays," she said.
Miller, who had four goals against Gahanna, finished with 44 goals and 26 assists last spring. Boso had 16 goals and two assists, and Orioli scored 17 goals.
"We have learned that you have to keep your head in the game no matter what's going on around you," Boso said. "You can't let people get in your head because it can break you down both individually and as a team."
Junior Madi Martin is the goalkeeper after playing j.v. last season.
Coach Heighway said this season has been going smoother than last year because the players understand his expectations and more competed on club teams in the offseason. Those participating in club were Gracie Heighway, Miller, Orioli, junior midfielders Lauren Harris and Ariana Sanabria, sophomore attacker/midfielder Aubrey McMahon and freshman attacker/midfielder Allison Gruber.
"Things have gone smoother because the girls put time in the fall and winter conditioning and we had several girls play club lacrosse," he said. "In the past, only Gracie had played club lacrosse, but that experience helps a lot. You can see the difference."
The Warriors open OCC-Buckeye play April 4 at Big Walnut.
Boys lacrosse coach laying foundation
Coach Austin Ford has returned for a second time in an effort to build the boys lacrosse program.
The 2004 North graduate was an assistant from 2011-14 before leaving to work with the Thomas Worthington feeder program. Now that lacrosse is an OHSAA- and school-sanctioned sport, he's back to help build the team he loves.
"I grew up in Westerville and I live here now," said Ford, who replaced Nate Nelson after three seasons. "We're a real (OHSAA) sport and the school is providing some equipment so that helps us out."
The Warriors finished 8-11 overall and 2-5 in the OCC-Buckeye last season. They return five starters in senior midfielders Trent Bobo, Will Olson and Austin Yanichko, sophomore attacker Ian Evans and senior Caden Christ, who has moved from midfielder to attacker.
Christ and Evans are joined up front by junior Brandon Phipps and sophomore Andrew Hunter.
Senior Andrew Crawford is expected to be a key performer in the midfield, with Bobo and Crawford handling face-offs.
The defense features senior Grant Eastwood, junior Aaron Woods and sophomores Ben Mantenieks and Sean Mitchell.
Sophomores Xavier Dockery and Louis Saggio and freshman Colin Hickey will rotate in goal.
"All three (of the goalies) are new to lacrosse and we looked and recruited more athletic guys," Ford said. "We're trying to figure out who has the hot hand and go with him as long as we can."
The Warriors are 1-3, opening with a 9-2 loss to Gahanna on March 15 before falling to Kettering Fairmont 10-6 a day later. They defeated Marys-ville 10-9 on March 21 and lost to Bexley 9-8 in overtime March 23.
"We have shown our inexperience early, and we're also trying to install new offenses and defenses," said Ford, who teaches U.S. history and personal law at Whetstone. "We have had a bumpy start, but I think we're on the right path."
North opens league play April 4 against Big Walnut.
Below are the coming schedules for the North baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
March 28 -- Eastlake North at Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
March 29 -- Morehead (Ky.) Rowan County at Ripken Experience
April 2 -- Home vs. Central Crossing
March 28 -- At Pickerington North
March 30 -- Home vs. Olentangy Berlin
April 2 -- Home vs. Thomas Worth-ington
April 2 -- At Pickerington Central
March 28 -- Granville and Claysville (Pa.) McGuffey at Ripken Experience in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
March 29 -Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary at Ripken Experience
April 1 -- Home vs. Canal Winchester
April 3 -- Home vs. Pickerington North
March 28 -- At Groveport
April 2 -- Home vs. Upper Arlington
April 3 -- Home vs. Berlin
TRACK & FIELD
March 29 -- Panther Invitational at Pickerington North
April 1 -- Home vs. DeSales