As an eighth-grade lacrosse player for Olentangy Orange Middle School, Grace McAninch wasn't expecting a move to goalkeeper. Once she agreed to play there, she wasn't expecting to enjoy it.
A former defender who had to be coaxed into the net, McAninch has not left since. As a four-year starter for the Orange High School girls team, she has surpassed 400 career saves.
"I started in goal halfway through my eighth-grade season because they needed someone to play there," said McAninch, who had 417 saves entering the week. "Then I started to like it. I like holding the team up and being accountable to them."
McAninch reached the 400-save milestone by making three in a 13-3 loss to Dublin Coffman on April 18.
She started the season opener as a freshman when given the chance by former coach Megan Noone, who is now coaching Berlin.
"(Noone) said I was working hard and she liked my work ethic so she gave me a chance," McAninch said. "It means a lot to get 400 saves, but I would not have been able to do it without my teammates and coaches along the way."
McAninch had four saves in the Pioneers' first victory of the season, a 16-4 win over Westerville South in OCC-Buckeye Division play April 24. Orange was 1-10 overall and 1-4 in the league before playing Westerville North on April 30.
Having a goalie who knows how to play the position and how to direct her teammates has helped ease one of the difficulties for first-year coach Mallory Skrobot.
"I think Grace has a really good combination of skills on the field," Skrobot said. "If our (defense) is light on the communication, she always is calling where the ball is. She is very vocal and that really helps our (defense) and it helps our whole team to play better. She is so humble and gracious and always is thinking of her teammates."
The Pioneers lost to Columbus School for Girls 15-9 on April 22 as McAninch had 11 saves. Jenna Durst had three goals and Maddie Girard and Taylor Houston both scored twice.
"Always for a goalie, one of the most important things is the battle to stay positive throughout a game," Skrobot said. "For Grace, I think she does a good job of keeping away the negative thoughts when we have had tough times. She has saved our butts over time and has ... a save percentage of over 50 percent. She really has saved us."
While McAninch has settled into being a goalie, her first experience in the varsity net was not so easy. She had three saves in a 17-8 win over North.
"I was scared when I started my first game," she said. "It was a lot different than in the eighth grade.
"Everyone was a lot bigger and had more size. Their skill level was a lot better than I thought it would be. It was really nerve-racking. Everyone was behind me and kept pushing me along the way."
McAninch wants to attend Northern Kentucky to study radiology but does not plan to play lacrosse in college.
"Goalie is a position that can be scary, but you have to let things go," assistant coach Jessica Rice said. "(As a goalie), you are the maestro of the players because you can see the whole field and tell everyone what's going on. She has been so consistent for us."
Baseball team stays in OCC-Buckeye hunt
The baseball team was 15-4 overall and first in the OCC-Buckeye at 8-1 before playing North on April 30.
Entering play April 30, the Pioneers were one-half game ahead of Liberty, which was 8-2. The teams' third league meeting was May 1.
Josh Laisure led Orange with a .400 batting average and had 14 RBI, nine runs and five stolen bases through 18 games. He also was 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA, 22 strikeouts and 20 walks in 25 2/3 innings.
Zane Lattig was 3-3 with a 2.92 ERA, 33 strikeouts and 13 walks in 38 1/3 innings.
Robbie Dayhuff was batting .364 with 12 runs and four stolen bases, and Tyler Ross was hitting .333 with 16 RBI and seven runs. Caden Konczak was batting .320 with 16 runs and seven stolen bases, and Braden Riley was hitting .292 with 16 RBI, 11 runs and nine stolen bases.
Little, Smith leading boys volleyball team
Luke Little and Jake Smith have been leading the boys volleyball team, which was 4-7 overall before playing Worthington Kilbourne on May 1 and is 2-4 in the OCC-Buckeye.
Through nine matches, Smith had 77 kills, 31 aces and 51 digs, and Little had 66 kills, 43 digs and 12 blocks. Sam Cochran had 148 assists and 35 digs, and Tommy Schneider had 22 kills and 12 blocks.
Below are the coming schedules for the Orange baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
*May 3 -- Home vs. Westerville Central. The Pioneers defeated the Warhawks 6-4 on April 10 and lost 8-7 on April 12.
May 4 -- At Mason
*May 6 -- At Westerville South. The Pioneers defeated the Wildcats 6-0 on April 15 and lost 2-0 on April 17.
*May 8 -- Home vs. Olentangy. The Pioneers defeated the Braves 5-1 on April 22 and 2-1 on April 24.
May 4 -- Home vs. DeSales
May 7 -- Home vs. Centerville
May 6 -- Home vs. Granville
May 8 -- Home vs. Gahanna
May 2 -- At Grove City
May 3 -- Home vs. Bexley
May 6 -- At 26th-seeded Dublin Scioto in first round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays 27th-seeded Pickerington North in second round May 9 at home of better seed. The Pioneers are seeded 28th.
May 6 -- At Columbus Academy
TRACK & FIELD
May 3 -- Delaware County Elite 8 at home
May 8, 11 -- OCC-Buckeye meet at Westerville North and Hilliard Davidson
*May 2 -- Home vs. Olentangy. The Pioneers lost to the Braves 25-22, 28-26, 25-17 on April 16.
May 6 -- At St. Charles
*May 7 -- At Westerville North. The Pioneers defeated the Warriors 25-11, 25-20, 25-23 on April 18.