For the third time this season and the second time in four matches the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys volleyball team lost to Worthington Kilbourne, with the last one being 25-12, 23-25, 27-25 last Saturday in the Division I East Region 2 final at Dublin Scioto.

For the third time this season and the second time in four matches the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys volleyball team lost to Worthington Kilbourne, with the last one being 25-12, 23-25, 27-25 last Saturday in the Division I East Region 2 final at Dublin Scioto.

The also lost to the Wolves 25-23, 25-17, 25-19 on May 13 and 25-17, 25-18, 25-18 on May 3. In the match last Saturday, the outcome came down to the Wolves' ability to serve aggressively and get Gahanna out of its offensive rhythm. The Lions couldn't do the same.

"We weren't able to take them out of their offense with our serving, and we could not get into an offensive set with our serve-receive," coach Mike Sage said. "Other than that we played them pretty even."

The Lions finished 18-9 overall and went 7-1 to win the OCC-Ohio Division ahead of Hilliard Darby (6-2), Upper Arlington (4-4), Dublin Coffman (2-6) and Thomas Worthington (1-7).

Darby actually defeated Gahanna 25-23, 25-20, 25-11 on April 10 and 25-16, 25-12, 25-19 on April 29, but the Panthers had to forfeit three matches -- including the second one against Gahanna -- because they had used an ineligible player.

The last time Gahanna defeated Darby was in 2006, and that year the Lions would have had a shot at a share of the league title but they lost another league match to Thomas Worthington and it ended up spoiling their shot. The fact that they give away this opportunity with another league loss made this title feel all right.

"We did what we needed to do as the second-place team and we moved right in," Sage said. "We made sure we took care of all. We didn't do that two years ago."

Gahanna struggled with those off-court issues last season, and being able to put those kinds of things behind it was one of the reasons it was optimistic heading into this season. The Lions opened 12-2, and during that span had a nine-game winning streak.

The Lions will lose seniors Tyler Bentz (setter/right side hitter), Nick Conkle (middle hitter), Andrew Leopold (setter), Ryan Engel (middle hitter), Cory Hohenstein (libero) and Jarren Weppler (defensive specialist).

The offense ran through Engle and Conkle, but Sage said that by the district tournament junior outside hitters Nate Deuber, Andy Offord and Mike Reid were getting a lot of playing time. He expects that experience to help offset the losses in the middle.

In the district tournament the Lions won a semifinal over Pickerington North 0-25, 25-14, 20-25, 28-26, 15-10 on May 17 andbeat Hilliard Davidson in a district final 25-18, 25-17, 25-19 five days later.

"We have to replace both middles so we have some big wholes to fill but we have a lot returning," Sage said. "Here at the end in our Pickerington North and our Davidson games a lot of the juniors were playing."

Also expected to return are juniors Ryan Dempsey, Jimmy Gillooly (setter), Casey Peirano (defensive specialist) and Dan Vo (defensive specialist).

At a glance

•Record: 18-9 overall, 7-1 (first) OCC-Ohio

•Seniors lost: Tyler Bentz, Nick Conkle, Ryan Engel, Cory Hohenstein, Andrew Leopold and Jarren Weppler

•Key returnees: Ryan Dempsey, Jimmy Gillooly, Andy Offord and Mike Reid