Unable to capitalize on several quality scoring opportunities, the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys soccer team was eliminated from the Division I district tournament by Upper Arlington on Oct. 22.

Unable to capitalize on several quality scoring opportunities, the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys soccer team was eliminated from the Division I district tournament by Upper Arlington on Oct. 22.

The fourth-seeded Lions fell to the 10th-seeded Golden Bears 1-0 in a district semifinal as UA won the shootout by converting all five of its penalty kicks. Gahanna made four of its five after the teams played without scoring through regulation and two 15-minute overtimes.

"We hit the crossbars, we hit the posts, we did everything but find the back of the net in regulation," coach Dwayne Marshall said. "We had the better play of it the whole game and we feel strongly that we should've won. That's what hurts.

"Instead, it becomes a one-on-one situation, with no setups. There's a lot of pressure put on every individual and the goalkeepers. It was 4-4 entering the last round and they made their attempt and ours hit the crossbar."

After losing in the semifinal round for the second season in a row, the Lions finished 11-5-1 overall. They won the OCC-Ohio Division at 5-0-2, earning their fifth consecutive league championship.

"The only sports program here to win five league titles in a row was the football team back in the 1970s, so we're going to look to break that record next year," Marshall said. "These seven seniors were a big part of the league championship stretch. We haven't lost a league match since 2003 and they took pride in that. We're well respected around the state and they can take credit for that. So while it was a disappointing finish to not win a district title, they have a lot to be proud about, a lot to celebrate."

The seniors included Mark Aksel, Tanner Brown, Bruce Karper, Scott Maxwell, Collin Pitro, Michael Vourvopoulous and Justin Wheeler. Aksel and Brown were starters in the midfield, Wheeler started at forward with Maxwell and Pitro starting on defense. Vourvopoulous was the backup goalie and Karper was a utility player.

Wheeler was first-team all-district and all-league and Aksel was third-team all-district and first-team all-league. Brown was first-team all-league and Pitro was second-team all-league.

"Last year we had what we call storms within the team," Marshall said. "The seniors made sure we didn't have that this season. They were determined to play as a team and did a tremendous job being role models."

The Lions, who had beaten UA 1-0 in the regular season on Oct. 4, opened the tournament by beating Westerville South 5-0 in the second round Oct. 18, as junior forward Sean Lipps scored three goals and added assists on goals by Wheeler and sophomore Ben Crognale.

Gahanna, which switched from a 4-4-2 formation last year to a 3-5-2 in hopes of creating more offense, outscored its opposition 43-6.

"We've got six full-time starters back and another who started more than half our games," Marshall said. "We'll be further along next year because they know the system, fit into it well and we'll go back to it next year. We're looking to fill maybe four players into the system, but we think we've got the players to do that. Upper Arlington won the district title and it easily could've been us. Next year we fully plan on winning a district title. There's no reason to believe we shouldn't."

The Lions won district championships in 2005 and 2006, losing to Dublin Jerome 3-2 in a regional final in '05 and to Kettering Fairmont 4-1 in a regional semifinal in '06.

Finishing behind Gahanna in the OCC-Ohio were Pickerington North (5-1-1) Pickerington Central and Grove City (both 4-2-1), Reynoldsburg (2-1-4), Lancaster (1-5-1), Groveport (1-6) and Newark (0-6-1).

The expected starting returnees include Christian Conte (midfield), Ryan Grimme (goalkeeper), Jon Grooms (midfield), Lipps, Zach McClurg (midfield), Cody Popelas (midfield) and Ben Witkoff (defense).

Lipps and Witkoff were second-team all-league and Popelas was honorable mention.

According to Marshall, the Lions are the first program in the state to finish the regular season without a loss in the varsity, junior varsity and freshman programs combined. Those teams went a combined 35-0-7.

"We've got talent coming and a strong returning group which includes a very good goalkeeper," Marshall said. "We have high expectations."

At a glance

•Record: 11-5-1 overall, 5-0-2 (first) in OCC-Ohio

•Seniors lost: Mark Aksel, Tanner Brown, Bruce Karper, Scott Maxwell, Collin Pitro, Michael Vourvopoulous and Justin Wheeler

•Key returnees: Christian Conte, Ryan Grimme, Jon Grooms, Sean Lipps, Zach McClurg, Cody Popelas and Ben Witkoff