Alyssa Kneedler and Chloe Platte laugh about it now, but there was a time when the senior midfielders for the New Albany High School girls lacrosse team were more rivals than friends.
"I don't know if we were friends for a long time," Kneedler said, laughing. "When we started playing lacrosse when we were little, Chloe was the only girl I knew on (opposing club teams) because she was a head taller than everyone else at the time. We both took the draw. Every time we'd play each other, I knew I wanted to beat her."
When Kneedler moved back to New Albany before her sophomore year, coming off a 47-goal freshman season at Pickerington North, memories came flooding back for Platte.
"I wasn't sure I'd be friends with her and my mom was like 'watch Chloe, you two will be best friends,' " Platte said. "She comes back and immediately, we were super close. I love playing with this whole group. We couldn't ask for better teammates."
That goes not only for Kneedler and Platte, but for all of a deep group of midfielders that helped New Albany win 10 of its first 12 games and earn the top ranking in the state last week, according to LaxNumbers.com. The Eagles were 10-2 overall and 5-0 in the OCC-Buckeye Division before an April 22 game against Westerville Central.
Senior midfielder Emily Rezabek's 48 goals and 64 points far and away led the team through 12 games, but six teammates -- five of them midfielders -- had between 18 and 29 points in that span. Platte had 19 goals and 10 assists and Katie Kaucheck had 14 goals and 15 assists, followed by Kneedler (25 goals, 2 assists), Blythe Ferguson (14 goals, 13 assists), Mary Carson (18 goals, 3 assists) and attacker Liz Beckner (16 goals, 2 assists).
"To have that kind of balance is incredible," coach Dave Ferguson said. "The other thing is the number of assists. Putting that and the number of goals together is huge. Assists are a stat people don't talk enough about."
Sophomore midfielder Bridget Driscoll, who had 13 goals through 10 games, is as impressed with the Eagles' defense as the team's offensive balance. New Albany gave up more than six goals only three times before April 22, in a 10-9 win at DeSales to begin the season March 16, in a 16-13 loss to McLean (Virginia) Langley in the Legacy Lacrosse Cup on March 23 at Alpharetta (Georgia) and in an 11-8 loss at Upper Arlington on April 20.
New Albany held Olentangy, which scored 20 or more goals three times in its first nine games, to six in a 19-6 home win April 16.
"Our defense has been amazing and we've been able to create a lot of turnovers," Driscoll said.
"Our ride is getting much better. We've had a lot of good back-checks and turnovers. Our ride is crucial for us picking up the team."
Carson, a freshman who comes off the bench, credited her playing time to the leadership provided by New Albany's 12 seniors.
"We have such a good energy and that stems from the senior leadership," said Carson, whose older sister, Erin, is a senior defender who will play at Navy. "We encourage each other but we're still competitive. We know how to play each other. They've taught us patience on offense, waiting for our chance and taking it, and we have a lot of emphasis on our defense. That's such a strong unit."
Teams highlighting mental health
New Albany will play host to four boys lacrosse games and one girls contest Friday, April 26, and Saturday, April 27, as part of the Eagles' first Mental Health Awareness Weekend.
The girls team will play host to Hudson at 5:30 p.m. April 26, followed by the boys team playing Massillon Jackson.
On April 27, Pickerington North's boys team will play Jackson at 11 a.m., followed by the Eagles' varsity and junior varsity games against Centerville.
All members of the boys teams will wear Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Awareness ribbons on their helmets.
"Our staff and players wanted to use their platform for a greater message," New Albany boys coach Danny Gibson said. "Lacrosse is a vessel for our players and staff to use as a luxury to compete, learn how to foster communication and time management strategies, as well as being able to collaborate with a group of individuals that may be different or similar but allow for us all to come together to create lifelong memories. That said, we want our message, along with the Mental Health Club of NAHS, to be one of unity, acceptance and empowerment while we use our platform to reach as many as we can to raise awareness for mental health."
Softball team enters second round of OCC
The softball team broke a three-game losing streak in emphatic fashion April 18, routing host Franklin Heights 38-0 in five innings to improve to 3-2 in the OCC-Capital entering the second round of league play.
New Albany was 8-8 overall before playing Newark on April 22. That began a stretch of four games in as many days this week.
The Eagles dropped their first two league games last week, 5-0 at Groveport on April 15 and 11-9 to visiting Canal Winchester on April 17 despite solo home runs from Olivia Angles, Kirsten Tibbitts and Emma Valley.
Tibbitts had six hits and five RBI and Taylor Rhea had five hits to lead New Albany past Franklin Heights. Sophia Angles and Rhea each finished with six RBI.
Athletes reveal college choices
Eighteen student-athletes announced their college destinations April 17.
Peter Ackley will play lacrosse at Bates, Michiah Burton will play football at Akron, Ben Chaddock will play lacrosse at Nazareth, Conor Cook will play baseball at Adrian, Dean Danflous will play football at Otterbein, Chase Hamrick and Jack Heyes will play soccer at Ohio Dominican, Dulcie Heyes will play soccer at Denison, Jack Irvine will play football at John Carroll, Lonnie Kelley and Grayson Yanok will play lacrosse at Otterbein, McKayla Moffat will swim at Hartwick, Luke Muter and Brode White will play lacrosse at Furman, Mac Nardiello Smith will play soccer at Kenyon, Cody Roberts will play lacrosse at Ohio Wesleyan, Grant Rogers will play football at John Carroll and Monica Vale will run cross country at Otterbein.
Below are the coming schedules for the New Albany baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
*April 25 -- At Franklin Heights
*April 29 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights
*May 1 -- At Newark. The Eagles defeated the Wildcats 8-0 on April 5 and 12-6 on April 8.
April 26 -- Home vs. Massillon Jackson in Mental Health Awareness Weekend
April 27 -- Home vs. Centerville in Mental Health Awareness Weekend
*April 30 -- At Big Walnut
May 2 -- At DeSales
April 25 -- Home vs. Wilmette (Ill.) Loyola Academy
April 26 -- Home vs. Hudson in Mental Health Awareness Weekend
*April 30 -- Home vs. Big Walnut
*April 25 -- Home vs. Groveport. The Eagles lost to the Cruisers 5-0 on April 15.
*April 29 -- At Canal Winchester. The Eagles lost to the Indians 11-9 on April 17.
*May 1 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights. The Eagles defeated the Falcons 38-0 in five innings April 18.
May 2 -- Home vs. Dublin Coffman
April 26 -- Home vs. Toledo St. John's
April 30 -- Home vs. Dublin Jerome
TRACK & FIELD
April 26 -- Milt Will Invitational at Canal Winchester
*April 25 -- Home vs. Pickerington North. The Eagles lost to the Panthers 25-12, 25-9, 25-18 on April 8.
*April 30 -- At Pickerington Central. The Eagles lost to the Panthers 25-16, 30-28, 25-14 on April 16.