After losing its opening two games by a combined 20 goals, the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys lacrosse team had what coach Brett Dillon considers an awakening of sorts.

The Lions won three of their next four, putting them on pace to surpass their total of four victories a year ago.

"It's come down to the players having heart," Dillon said. "We had a lot of sweat, a lot of pain and some tears, but sometime after that second game, our kids decided to take some pride in it. They believe they can win every time they step out on that field now."

A big part of the improvement has come because of a maturing defense.

Junior Alex Chien has been a standout, finishing with seven ground balls in a 10-9 overtime loss to Westerville South on April 15. Senior Alex Wade, one of eight upperclassmen in the program, and freshman Andrew Winters are others who have contributed defensively.

They have made life easier for senior goalkeeper Bobby Lane, who perhaps more than any player in the program has exemplified what Dillon hopes is a team filled with passion for the game. Lane has remained in goal for all of Gahanna's games despite suffering a torn left ACL during the preseason.

He started at goalkeeper for most of last season and made 98 saves. This season, he led a defense which gave up an average of 8.5 goals over its first six games.

Lane, who also has a condition in which the upper chamber of his heart beats faster than the lower -- diagnosed when he was in eighth grade -- missed time last year because of heart surgery.

"I tore my ACL before the season and I was just praying every night that I'd get this brace so I could play," Lane said

"Our team as a whole needs me in the cage. My sister's boyfriend put a stick in my hand when I was in sixth grade and I've loved it ever since."

Lane has noticed a big difference in the defense in front of him. Last season, Gahanna gave up 15 or more goals seven times.

"Our team was really young last year and everybody has grown this year," Lane said.

"We trust each other more. I didn't have trust in my defense last year but I'm loving my new defense this year. They've stepped up so much."

•NOW ON OFFENSE -- Gahanna suffered a blow before the season started when senior Ryan Coupland became ineligible. He and Kyle Tarbutton shared the team lead in scoring last year with 26 points.

Tarbutton, a senior attacker, and his brother, sophomore Brad, have been among those who have stepped up offensively. Sophomore Nate Hays also has been a key contributor.

"Nate is a threat wherever he goes," Dillon said. "That, and we've got seven solid midfielders this year who are threats from everywhere. We've got less overall experience than last year but we've got a lot more guys who have drilled a lot and passed a lot over the past few months."

At a glance

Below are recent results and the coming schedule for the Gahanna Lincoln boys lacrosse team:

*April 3 -- Lost to Olentangy Liberty 14-3

*April 6 -- Lost to Westerville Central 11-2

*April 7 -- Defeated Big Walnut 14-4

April 12 -- Def. Perrysburg 10-8

*April 15 -- Lost to Westerville 10-9 (OT). Nate Hays and Brad Tarbutton scored two goals.

April 18 -- Def. Johnstown 12-4. Kyle Tarbutton scored six goals and Brad Tarbutton and Hays had two. Bobby Lane had eight saves.

Last Monday -- Lost to Granville 15-3. Brad Tarbutton, Kyle Turbotton and John Mercurio scored.

*Today -- At Westerville North. Last season, Gahanna lost 11-0.

Saturday-Sunday -- At Lebanon tournament vs. Lebanon club team

Monday -- At Watterson. Gahanna lost 15-2 last year.

May 2 -- At Bexley. Gahanna won 10-7 a year ago.

May 3 -- Home vs. Whitehouse Anthony Wayne

Of note: The Lions are 3-4 overall and 1-3 in the OCC-Ohio.

*OCC-Ohio game