NORTH CANTON  As the 2017 lacrosse season gets underway, the Hoover Vikings are out to go from average to great.

The Vikings had a 7-7 overall record and 6-4 league mark last season and going .500 isn’t what the Vikings have in mind this time around.

From that team, 11 letterwinners and five starters are back and second-year head coach Jessica Zettler sees good pieces in place for Hoover.

“’I’m very excited for the season to start. We have a lot of talent on the team as well as some depth this year. After losing a solid group of seniors last year, we really needed some returners to step up in a big way and they have,” Zettler said. “I can’t wait to see how they develop throughout the rest of the season. We definitely have our things to work on, but after our scrimmage, I feel very positive about how the team looks as we head into our season.”

Teams that return their starting goalie usually have a big leg up on those that don’t and junior net minder Elyssa Enrique is back as the last line of defense for a unit that returns senior Grace Reider, along with junior attacker Sammie Battista and sophomore midfielder Katie Harcourt.

That means plenty of new players on the varsity roster and with quite a few newcomers, chemistry can be a question mark. However, Zettler isn’t worried about the team coming together and has seen plenty of evidence of it in the preseason.

“I definitely feel like one of our strengths this year is our cohesion as a team. We’ve only had one scrimmage so far, but the way the girls moved and worked together on the field was nice to see,” Zettler said.

If Hoover is to make a move in the area lacrosse scene and challenge perennial power Jackson, which has reached the state tournament three times in the past five seasons, the Vikings will have to translate their speed on offense into a more explosive scoring attack. 

Because of that speed, Zettler believes the team’s transitions will be one of the strong points of its attack and that the Vikings will be able to move the ball up the field at a solid pace.

Two freshmen, midfielder Grace Bergert and defender Elyce Enrique, will be a part of those efforts and Enrique in particular could be a key player in the one area of the game the coaching staff is most concerned about based on last season.

“One are we need to work on is our team defense. This is one area where we really struggled last year and I can see that we are continuing to struggle in it this year,” Zettler said. “We especially need to focus on defense in our defensive end because we run a defense that is a little more complex.”

Hoover runs a backer zone defense as opposed to the man-to-man defense that many squads use, meaning communication and having the entire team working together on the field are even more essential. Northeast Ohio annually boasts some of the stronger Division I teams in the state, so the Vikings will once again see no shortage of challenges as the season progresses.

In their second season under the current coaching staff, the learning curve has flattened out and players have a better idea of what they’re being asked to do. The task at hand is to take that understanding, combine it with the cohesion and experience they possess and turn it into the winning record that escaped them last season by the slightest of margins. 

Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB