Considering that hawks are known to have sharp vision and strong hunting abilities, the Olentangy Liberty High School boys lacrosse program gives an annual team award called the "ground ball hawk" for the player who scoops up the most.

Those characteristics also fit senior Andrew Guagenti, last year's winner of the award and a long-stick midfielder, to a T.

"I love just the aggressive part of (lacrosse) and being able to use a longer stick," Guagenti said. "Sometimes I play short-stick (defensive midfielder) and it's a lot harder. I always have that battle (among teammates in) getting the ground balls."

Before playing Orange on April 17, Liberty was 4-4 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Buckeye Division. The Patriots opened league play with an 11-2 win April 9 over Big Walnut and then beat Westerville South 18-0 on April 11.

The defensive success continued April 13 in an 8-2 victory at Carmel (Indiana).

Liberty opened with three consecutive losses, including to Worthington Kilbourne 5-4 on March 23 and Cincinnati Moeller 7-6 in overtime March 30.

"It's been a difficult start to the season for sure," coach Jason Godwin said. "We understand it's not going to be easy to win. It's going to take a team working together doing the little things right. We need to take care of the ball better when we get it. We need to be grittier getting the ball on face-offs or other times it's on the ground. We have resilient kids. They want to do what it takes to get back to our traditional winning ways."

Led by Guagenti, junior long-stick midfielders Ryan Bird and Korey Raymond and senior Carson Tate and junior Matthew Barrett as close defenders, the defense has been a strength for the Patriots.

Guagenti's defensive skills were noticed during club competition long before he became a prep standout. After his freshman season, he verbally committed to Ohio State, where he'll likely continue to be a long-stick midfielder and follow in the footsteps of recent Liberty graduates Griffin Hughes, Skylar Wahlund and Johnny Wiseman.

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Guagenti suffered a concussion during a 9-5 loss to Dublin Coffman in the Division I, Region 1 final last season. He has been working on his physical tools considering the rigors he could face once he gets to Ohio State.

"(Ohio State has) always been a dream school of mine," Guagenti said. "All of my exposure came when I played for (the) Resolute (club program). I'd say just my speed and strength (are my biggest assets).

"I try to be a leader by example. I talk on the field, but off the field it's about coaching someone up individually. I'm there to help them and if they have some questions, they can just come to me and I can help."

Guagenti, whose freshman sister, Ava, is a defender for the girls team, has remained among Liberty's leaders in caused turnovers and also has seen action on face-offs.

"Andrew is a tough kid," Godwin said. "He's smart, too. We love him taking on our opponents' best player. He's a huge asset to us on face-offs. He's quick and has a knack when he loses the draw that he can still take it away. He's a ground-ball machine."

Girls lacrosse team getting on track

First-year girls lacrosse coach Tim Bosco likes the progress his team has made since losing its first two games.

The Patriots had won four of five and were 4-3 overall and 3-1 in the OCC-Buckeye after beating Orange 17-5 on April 15. They then faced Upper Arlington on April 17.

Among the losses was a 17-2 setback April 3 in the opener at New Albany, which lost to UA in last year's Division I state title game.

"We had some struggles out of the gate, but we were coming off of spring break and (New Albany was) playing its third game," Bosco said. "It was a tough way to start, but we're doing pretty well. We're getting back on track."

Through six games, senior midfielder Molly Bursinger had 15 goals, senior attacker Rory Ball had nine, junior midfielder Emma Shear had eight and junior midfielder Lauren Buddie had seven.

Bursinger had four goals in a 17-5 win over Big Walnut on April 8 and in a 13-9 loss to Cincinnati Indian Hill on April 13 in the Hannigan-Galipault Tournament at Thomas Worthington. Ball scored five times in a 21-2 win over Westerville South on April 11.

Also in the Hannigan-Galipault, Liberty beat Cleveland Heights 12-6 as Ball, Bursinger, Shear and junior attacker Paige Haughn each scored two goals and junior goalkeeper Gillian O'Rourke had eight saves.

"They're learning a lot of new things since I'm a new coach, but we're coming along," Bosco said. "The two main things (we're working on) would be ball control and patience, looking for the right opportunity, and we want to be a lot more sound and tight on the defensive side."

Liberty planning facility upgrades

Liberty is planning to build a multisport facility that will include two boys and two girls locker rooms, an athletic training room, team and coaching staff meeting rooms, video areas, storage, and public restrooms at the baseball and softball complex, the school announced on its athletics website April 10.

The approximate $1 million project is expected to be ready by spring 2020.

In addition, the hockey program is planning to build a new locker, according to coach Kevin Alexander. The program is planning a fundraiser in May.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek