With MiaBella Kisker playing a key role and coach Wynleux Henderson working to rejuvenate the program, the Westerville South High School girls lacrosse team has undergone a transformation over the last year.
Kisker, a senior attacker and midfielder, had 10 goals, 19 assists, 50 ground balls, 16 faceoff wins and four steals through eight games as the Wildcats matched their win total from last season. They were 4-5 overall and 0-5 in the OCC-Buckeye Division after losing to Big Walnut 17-5 on April 15.
South is looking for its first winning season since 2013 when it finished 10-8. The Wildcats went 4-14 last season, 0-18 in 2017, 3-12 in 2016, 1-15-1 in 2015 and 6-12 in 2014.
"I see a big difference," Kisker said of the program's growth under Henderson. "He holds practices and it shows that he cares a lot about this team. It shows in games and at practice."
Kisker scored two goals in South's 10-5 loss at Westerville North on April 9. Sophomore midfielder/attacker Kaitlyn McBride, who has been another key contributor, had three goals.
"This game, we really came together and worked as a team," said Kisker, who recently changed her last name from Pillow to Kisker in honor of her stepfather, Graham. "We were passing as a team. We were doing everything as a team. We were doing the little things right and that made a really big difference."
South was looking to end a four-game losing streak against Big Walnut. In addition to the loss against North, the Wildcats also fell to Olentangy (19-3 on April 4), New Albany (21-0 on April 6) and Olentangy Liberty (21-2 on April 11) in league play.
Kisker's success in the program has helped her earn the opportunity to play in college, as she will be the first South girls lacrosse player to compete at the Division I level. She has signed with Akron, which will play its first season in 2020.
"With it being a start-up team, we were not only recruiting for solid skill and lacrosse IQ, we also wanted to pick leaders and culture builders," Zips coach Christy Mitchell said. "(Kisker) will bring tons of experience, leadership, athleticism and positive energy to help build the culture of this new team."
Kisker is a four-year varsity player for South.
"Our biggest thing has been making sure that she's able to stay mentally tough and she can handle the pressure of college lacrosse," Henderson said. "She's progressing in the right direction. She's a huge asset to this program."
Kisker's sister, Morgan, is a sophomore attacker/midfielder/def-ender for the Wildcats.
Kisker also played basketball and volleyball at South, but her first love is lacrosse.
"I'm pretty excited to leave a legacy for these girls," she said. "I hope they all go on and play at the collegiate level. I know college is going to be challenging, but the way that (Henderson) holds practices and expects games to be, I totally see he's preparing me to play in college."
Boys lacrosse team fighting adversity
Boys lacrosse coach Mike Spatafore said his team has been battling adversity.
South was 4-7 overall and 0-2 in the OCC-Buckeye before playing Big Walnut on April 16.
"We are battling. Injuries have been taking a toll on our team," Spatafore said. "We are asking a good amount of freshmen to step into some big roles on the varsity team. It will be challenging, but we will be better for it in the long run."
Spatafore said key injuries have included Sam Swisher (concussions) and Donovan Hunt (dislocated elbow), and their status for the remainder of the season remains in question. Both are in their second season as a starter.
Through 10 games, Bryce Wilson had 18 goals and two assists and Noah Raber had seven goals and six assists.
Softball team relying on underclassmen
The softball team was 3-9 overall and 0-3 in the OCC-Buckeye before playing North on April 17.
"We continue to compete in an incredibly tough conference with an incredibly young team," coach Emily Swank-Kavanaugh said. "Twelve of our 15 players are underclassmen. This is where we take pride in developing players and have perspective about our goals as a program. I am proud of how we are playing our first four to five innings, sticking with tough non-league teams like Pickerington Central and Big Walnut.
"Now, we turn our focus back to basics and emphasize playing a full seven innings as competitively as we possibly can."
South lost to Central 17-3 in five innings April 3 and Big Walnut 6-2 and 9-3 on April 13.
Through 11 games, sophomore Megan Shoemaker was batting .467 and freshman Tori Moore was hitting .464.