With a bevy of returnees, the Worthington Kilbourne High School boys lacrosse team has hopes of returning to the Division I state tournament this season.
The Wolves finished 17-6 overall last season, losing to eventual state champion Cincinnati St. Xavier 18-8 in a state semifinal.
Mike Riffee, who was a volunteer assistant with Kilbourne from 2010-18 after being head coach from 2007-09, is serving as interim coach this season. He replaces Mike Lippert, who stepped down after one season.
"Coming off of a regional championship in 2018, we look to pick up where we left off last season," Riffee said. "Our coaching staff is very optimistic and excited to challenge our players to work hard to improve upon our successes from last year. We have strong senior captains and leaders returning on our defense and offense."
Leading the returnees are seniors Adam Clay (defender), Jack Ellis (midfielder), Dane Jackson (goalkeeper), Jake LeVette (attacker) and Hayden Sydnor (defender) and juniors Will Alban (attacker) and Carson Kott (attacker).
"All of these players are great leaders, have good lacrosse IQs and have logged significant minutes playing at the varsity level," Riffee said. "Jake is a four-year starter, Dane, Adam and Hayden are three-year starters and Carson is a returning starter."
Last season, Jackson was named first-team all-region and Clay and Kott were second-team all-region. Jackson and Clay also were honorable mention all-state and first-team all-OCC-Cardinal Division.
Kott and Sydnor were second-team all-league and LeVette was honorable mention all-league as the Wolves went 6-0 to win the title, ahead of runner-up Dublin Jerome (5-1).
Senior Eric Campbell and junior Max Kott join Ellis as starters in the midfield, while senior Nate Mitchell and junior Paul Jarvis (long-stick midfielder) round out the starters on defense.
"The greatest strength of our team will be our defense given what we have returning," Riffee said. "All of those players have played significant minutes during the past three years. That allows us to spend more time reinforcing and not teaching our defensive concepts.
"On the offensive side of the field, we expect Carson Kott and Jake LeVette to have breakout seasons at attack and we'll need that. We are going to have to work hard to replace the 79 goals that our top three midfielders (who graduated) put in the back of the net last season. We are also hoping to develop strength at the faceoff and our wing play."
Other returning letterwinners are seniors Eric Campbell (midfielder) and Jacob Mihaly (midfielder), juniors Manny Herraiz (midfielder), Riley Lewis (midfielder) and Brodie Shearn (defender) and sophomores Carson Dough-erty (midfielder) and Harrison Kline (midfielder).
The Wolves opened 3-0, beating Watterson 10-9 on March 16, Olentangy 9-3 on March 19 and Olentangy Liberty 5-4 in overtime on March 23. They played Upper Arlington on March 26 and don't play again until opening league play April 4 at home against Hilliard Darby.
Through three games, Carson Kott had eight goals, Max Kott had seven and Ellis had three, and Jackson had 26 saves.
Max Kott scored the winning goal against Liberty with 11 seconds left in overtime.
Girls lacrosse team has high expectations
The girls lacrosse team has returned nine starters and 28th-year coach Doug Troutner is hoping they will step up their level of play in an expanded system.
"We need to rapidly increase our lacrosse IQ so that we can play smarter," said Troutner, whose team finished 13-8 overall last season, losing to Columbus Academy 17-10 in a Division II, Region 7 semifinal. "With the number of returning players, we have expanded our playbook on both the offensive and defensive sides of the field."
With just three seniors in the starting lineup, the Wolves are young, and they must find a way to replace 2018 graduate Morgan Schutte, who was named OCC-Cardinal Player of the Year last season.
"We are returning a large group of talented players, but we will need a team effort to replace Morgan Schutte," said Troutner, whose team went 4-2 in the OCC-Cardinal last year to place third behind Jerome (6-0) and Thomas (5-1).
The returning senior starters are midfielder Lexi Bair and defenders Bridget Maloney and Reilly St. Myer. St. Myer was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-region last season.
The attack will be led by juniors Lilli Hadden, Meagan Rosenfeld and Jackie Wolford.
"Those three combined for 130 goals and 67 assists (last season)," Troutner said. "Jackie and Lilli have both worked hard in the offseason to increase their repertoire of skills. Combined with their intelligence about the sport and their willingness to distribute the ball, they should be a couple of the top players in the area."
Last season, Wolford totaled 64 goals and 40 assists and was first-team all-region and all-league. Hadden had 49 goals and 24 assists and was first-team all-league, and Rosenfeld had 17 goals and nine assists.
Also returning on defense are junior Lindsey Buterbaugh and sophomore Ella Bally, while sophomore Claire Schutte is back in the midfield. Bally was second-team all-league last year.
"With the entire starting defense returning, the defense should be a strong point," Troutner said. "The midfield also has a lot of experience with Lexi and Claire returning as starters, as well as three letterwinners."
Those returning letterwinners are juniors Hannah Hale and Alli Stout and sophomore Nicole Miller.
Expected to see time in goal are senior Isabela Hyre, junior Melanie Fisher and freshman Celeste Sloma.
The Wolves opened 1-2, losing to Cincinnati Summit Country Day 15-13 on March 15, beating Cincinnati Indian Hill 15-12 the next day at Fortress Obetz and losing to DeSales 17-12 on March 19. They will return to action April 4, when they play at Darby in their league opener.
Below are the coming schedules for the Kilbourne baseball, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
March 29 -- At Lakewood
April 3 -- At Dublin Coffman
March 29 -- Home vs. Mount Vernon
*April 3 -- Home vs. Hilliard Darby
March 28 -- At Pickerington North
*April 2 -- At Dublin Jerome
April 3 -- Home vs. Buckeye Valley
TRACK & FIELD
March 30 -- Icebreaker Invitational at Watkins Memorial
April 2 -- Home vs. DeSales
March 29 -- Home vs. Briggs