Girls Lacrosse: Hilliard Darby Panthers seeing new leaders emerge

·6 min read
Senior defender Ashley Bowers is among the key leaders for Darby, which is coming off a 16-4 season but lost 13 players to graduation.
Senior defender Ashley Bowers is among the key leaders for Darby, which is coming off a 16-4 season but lost 13 players to graduation.

Kaleb Secor needed an emergency goalie for his Hilliard Heritage Middle School girls lacrosse team. So, he asked Ashley Bowers, a track athlete in his science class, if she was interested in helping out.

“Ashley is such a hard worker and a great athlete, I knew she could step in and really help us out,” Secor said. “Track season had ended and so I knew she was free, and I just asked her in class if she wanted to come help us play in our tournament and, very luckily for us, she said yes. She stepped in and was dominant in the tournament and (helped) lead us to win (a couple of) games.”

Bowers fell in love with the sport and is now a key defender for Darby in her senior season. Secor is now in his fourth season guiding the Panthers.

“I love the sport and the pace of it, so I thought I might as well give it a shot,” Bowers said. “Getting pelted and drilled did not sound ideal. I played goalie in soccer growing up a little bit. I just gave it a shot.”

The Panthers are coming off a season in which they went 16-4 overall, setting the program record for wins. They went 3-2 in the OCC-Cardinal Division to finish third behind champion Thomas Worthington (5-0).

“We’re a pretty young team, but we get along so well,” Bowers said. “We’re a dedicated team. ... Everyone’s working together towards the same goal – winning the OCC championship this year.”

Bowers and fellow senior Olivia Miller are both returning starters on a defense that includes senior Alexis Finnegan, junior Carly White and sophomore Brittany Wolf.

“Me and Liv grew up playing soccer together,” Bowers said. “She is probably one of the fastest people I’ve ever seen. She ran track as well. Her speed is something that sets her apart from everyone else – she’s super athletic.”

Darby lost 13 players to graduation, but Secor believes the team has the makings for another strong season.

“It’s a new group of players playing together, so it’ll take a little bit of time to get where we need to be,” he said. “I’m excited about the potential we have going forward. It starts with a lot of good leadership. Luckily, (last year’s seniors) led by example a lot of times. I’ve been really proud of the girls this year stepping into those roles that have been (previously) occupied. A lot of the seniors we lost last year were four-year varsity starters.”

Junior midfielder Abberly Dela Rosa learned a lot about being a leader from last year’s senior class, which included Kelsey Binion (36 goals, 12 assists), Haylee Handrahan (28 goals) and Sophia Iosue (22 goals, 15 assists).

“Last year, they took me under their wing and showed me how to lead others and get other people involved,” Dela Rosa said. “Now that they’re gone, I’ve been able to use some of those leadership skills they showed me and take that into my own game and help the underclassmen.”

Dela Rosa led the Panthers with 38 goals. She also had 12 assists.

Also returning are junior attacker Karissa Allbright (31 goals, 9 assists) and senior attacker Carley House (1 goal, 9 assists).

“House is more a quiet leader,” Secor said. “She’s more of a stoic, lead-by-example kind of a girl. We’re lucky to have Abberly Dela Rosa. She recently committed to Niagara. I’m looking forward to her exploding onto the scene this year.”



•Coach: Faith Meads, second season

•Top players: Alyssa Burnside, Isabella De La Cerda, Christy Gerges, Katelyn Kuhn, Alex Nilson, Gabby Soto-Freytes and Delaney Warner

•Key losses: Reyann Askar and Rylee Mason

•Last season: 5-13 overall

•2021 OCC-Central standings: Upper Arlington (5-0), Dublin Coffman (4-1), Olentangy Liberty (3-2), Davidson (2-3), Olentangy Orange (1-4) Bradley (0-5)

•2021 postseason: Lost to Centerville 12-9 in first round of Division I, Region 3 tournament

•Outlook: Bradley is coming off a five-win season in which it was relying on first-year players to compete on varsity. This spring, the Jaguars have six seniors and numerous players with varsity experience.

Seniors Alyssa Burnside (attacker/midfielder; honorable mention all-league), Alex Nilson (attacker/midfielder) and Gabby Soto-Freytes (defender) are returning starters along with junior Delaney Warner and sophomore Isabella De La Cerda in the midfield.

Junior Katelyn Kuhn (second-team all-league) started in the midfield last season but is competing with sophomore Christy Gerges to be the goalie. The other will play in the midfield when not in the net.

Senior defender Neha Patel, junior midfielder Grace Cramer and sophomore attacker Kaitlyn Stickler also played varsity last season. Senior Darla Srisongkham moves up from junior varsity and should be an asset on the defensive end.

•Quotable: “Having girls coming in and having them know what they are doing is going to be huge. Last year, we had girls on varsity that had never played before. It’s going to be a different season in terms of lacrosse IQ and ball movement and understanding when to be patient and when to go. We’re building our confidence as a team.” — coach Faith Meads

—Scott Hennen


•Coach: Kaleb Secor, fourth season

•Top players: Karissa Allbright, Ashley Bowers, Abberly Dela Rosa, Carley House and Olivia Miller

•Key losses: Kelsey Binion, Haylee Handrahan, Sophia Iosue and Caroline Turner

•Last season: 16-4 overall

•2021 OCC-Cardinal standings: Thomas Worthington (5-0), Dublin Jerome (4-1), Darby (3-2), Olentangy (2-3), Olentangy Berlin (1-4), Marysville (0-5)

•2021 postseason: Def. Beavercreek 13-8; lost to Coffman 14-3 in second round of Division I, Region 3 tournament


•Coach: Chad Smock, eighth season

•Top players: Abby Emery, Ava Gooding, Maddy Johnson, Gigi Meyer and Naomi Mullett

•Key losses: Leah Craft, Sadie Davis and Julia Detterman

•Last season: 7-10 overall

•2021 postseason: Lost to Pickerington North 12-9 in second round of Division I, Region 3 tournament

•Outlook: Coach Chad Smock believes his team can improve on last year’s 7-10 finish.

A key returnee is sophomore defender Naomi Mullett, who was second-team all-league. Other key defenders are seniors Abby Emery and Maddy Johnson.

Key midfielders are senior Emma Hoersten and sophomores Gigi Meyer and Sydney White. Senior Ava Gooding is a top attacker.

Freshmen Ava Dodgion and Kylie Cox are expected to start and will both see time at midfielder and attacker.

Junior Ava Gains is the goalie.

•Quotable: “It’s a really fun group, a really athletic group. We lost 11 seniors last year. When you lose that many people that drastically changes the composition of the team the following year, but fortunately the returning players mesh really well with the players that came up from j.v. from last year. We have a chance to have a pretty good season.” — Smock

—Frank DiRenna

This article originally appeared on ThisWeek: Girls Lacrosse: Hilliard Darby seeing new leaders emerge