With only six upperclassmen on the roster, the Columbus School for Girls lacrosse team may need some time to jell under first-year coach Samantha Arey.
"Our team is very young. It is comprised mainly of freshmen and sophomores," said Arey, whose team opened April 2 with a CCL and CIL game against Hartley. "This may end up being a rebuilding year, but we still intend to win as many games as possible. I see this as an opportunity to build a very successful program. Since we will only be graduating two seniors this year, it means we won't have to reteach our offensive and defensive concepts again next year to the same degree we did this year.
"The team already has a solid grasp on the basics of defense, offense, rides and clears. Now it is our job as the coaching staff to get them to that next level of competitive play."
Arey took over for Kellen Morrissey, who went 42-32 in four seasons as coach, including 13-7 last season when the Unicorns lost their first four contests before winning nine in a row and 12 of 13 and reached a Division II, Region 7 quarterfinal before losing to Granville 12-6.
CSG finished third (1-2) in the CCL and fifth (3-4) in the Central Independent League.
Key returnees include seniors Annie Feibel (defender) and Katie Wagenbrenner (midfielder), juniors Maura Donnelly (attacker) and Ellen Monahan (midfielder) and sophomore Olivia Barry-Wilson (goalkeeper).
Last season, Monahan was named first-team all-region and all-CIL, Wagenbrenner was second-team all-CIL and Feibel was honorable mention all-CIL.
"Katie, Annie and Ellen are the upperclassmen with experience and we'll need them to be our leaders," Arey said. "Katie is a very strong player who knows how to box out on a draw and has one heck of a shot and Ellen is also very strong on the draw and is very strong defensively and offensively. She is a very versatile player that knows how to get the job done wherever she is placed on the field.
"Annie will most likely be our key defender. She has the confidence to take the ball from one end of the field to the other when necessary."
Expected to join Monahan and Wagenbrenner in the midfield is freshman Mimi Economus. Juniors Zoe Paragas and Alice Wruck and freshman Cynthia Alexander will join Donnelly in the attack, while sophomore Leah Giller and freshmen Sarah Lonser and Elizabeth Maite are expected to be the top defenders along with Feibel.
"There are quite a few freshmen to keep an eye out for as well," Arey said. "Once they get a little confidence playing at the high school level, they will be a force to reckon with."
Others looking to contribute are sophomores Charlotte Love (defender) and Liv Eyears (attacker) and freshmen Katie Humphrys (attacker), Elizabeth Shrim (attacker) and Avery Sharfin (defender).
"I believe our greatest issue will be bringing everything together on the field during a game," Arey said. "It is very easy to break concepts down in drills, but it is another thing to be able to bring them all together in a game. We are attempting to mold the program into a competitive one that is both defensively and offensively strong. We don't expect changes to happen overnight, but we know it can be achieved over time."
Track coach excited by increased depth
Fifth-year track and field coach Jen Bunker can't hide her excitement about the future of her team after a throng of athletes joined the program this season.
"This is the largest team we have had at CSG in many years," Bunker said. "Our numbers are up about 40 percent. Overall, we are a young team with a large group of freshmen and sophomores. We are fortunate to have a small but experienced group setting the tone.
"We are working hard to create a strong sense of belonging, while emphasizing the impact each and every athlete can have on the team."
The Unicorns open the season Tuesday, April 9, with a home meet against Circleville, Columbus Academy, Madison Christian, Ready and Village Academy.
CSG is expected to be led by seniors Emily Dewolf and Elizabeth Johnson and juniors Peyton Jackson and Asia Nguyen.
"Emily will be the leader of our hurdlers," Bunker said. "She is a three-time regional qualifier in the 100 (-meter) hurdles and a three-time state qualifier and all-Ohioan in the (400 relay). She has put in a lot of time in the offseason getting stronger and is setting a great example for our young team.
"Elizabeth has truly grown into her role as a leader. I am impressed with her willingness to lead by example and help the freshmen and sophomores feel comfortable. She is doing a great job laying the groundwork for a successful season."
In the Division II state meet last season, Jackson, Nguyen and sophomore Nyah Funderburke joined 2018 graduate Imani Babatunde on the fifth-place 800 relay (1 minute, 44.74 seconds) and Babatunde placed eighth in the 200 (25.61).
Also at state, the 400 relay of Jackson, Nguyen, Dewolf and Babatunde finished ninth (49.78) and Jackson placed 11th in the 400 (59.75).
"Peyton is a versatile athlete," Bunker said. "She can run anything, from the 100 hurdles to the 800 and long jump. The challenge for her is to figure out where she can help the team the most while setting herself up for postseason success. She is very determined to improve her finish in the 400 at the state meet, and I am certain she will continue to be an integral part of our sprint relays."
Senior Margeaux Rocco is expected to lead the team in jumps and Johnson, sophomore Jolien Kusi and freshman Riley Murphy will compete in throws.
The Unicorns have just three seniors along with six juniors, nine sophomores and 17 freshmen.
"The bulk of the team is young, so the areas of strength are still a bit of a mystery because it's so early and we're continuing to learn where everyone fits in," Bunker said. "However, sprint relays will continue to be a strength."