Gahanna Lincoln High School bowling coach Bruce Zink watched his boys and girls teams reach the district tournament last season. He is hopeful that both can take the next step this season.

Gahanna Lincoln High School bowling coach Bruce Zink watched his boys and girls teams reach the district tournament last season. He is hopeful that both can take the next step this season.

The boys team scored 4,768 points at district last season at HP Lanes to place eighth of 18 teams behind the three state qualifiers -- Westerville Central (5,193), Marion Pleasant (5,082) and Newark (4,957) -- as well as Ready (4,927), Chillicothe Zane Trace (4,923), Hartley (4,877) and Pickerington North (4,792).

The Lions had qualified for district by placing third (3,780) of 23 teams at the sectional at Rainbow Lanes behind Westerville South (3,810) and Hartley (3,787). The top nine teams advanced to district.

The boys team returned seven letterwinners in seniors Corey Betke, James Judy, Andy Niemi, Zak Rozler and Tyler Rudd and sophomores Ryan Arras and Jacob Reed. Also on the team is freshman James Watkins.

The girls team scored 3,630 at district a year ago to place 11th of 14 teams behind the two state qualifiers -- Westerville South (4,132) and Buckeye Valley (4,105) -- as well as Pleasant (4,023), Westerville Central (3,993), Reynoldsburg (3,981), Westerville North (3,963), Whitehall (3,901), Ready (3,797), Cardington (3,701) and Delaware (3,632).

The Lions had qualified for district by placing third (2,967) at the 17-team sectional behind Westerville South (3,041) and Westerville North (2,992). The top seven teams advanced to district.

The girls team is comprised of senior Brandie Norris, juniors Katherine Howell, Kelli Lennox and Kim Lennox and sophomores Lindsey May and Jennifer Nelson. All six are returning letterwinners.

"We've got experience and we've got some new blood," Zink said. "I think we have a pretty deep bench. The (returnees) are strong. If they have a bad day, we have people who can step in and fill the void.

"I think the kids are fired up (about the season) and having a good time. Both teams got to district last year and we definitely want to make it to district again this year. And with any luck and skill, we'll move on to state. If the kids bowl to their (ability), I think we have a chance. But it's a challenge. We know that."

The boys team improved 5-1 with a 2,154-2,061 win over Olentangy Liberty on Dec. 18, with Reed rolling a two-game score of 433 to lead the Lions. Two days earlier, the Lions defeated Hilliard Davidson 2,170-1,829, with Niemi rolling a 408.

The boys team's only loss was 2,164-2,059 to Westerville South on Dec. 9.

The girls team dropped to 4-2 with a 1,732-1,674 loss to Liberty on Dec. 18. In a 1,835-1,460 win over Davidson on Dec. 16, Kelli Lennox and May turned in the Lions' top two scores, rolling a 338 and 320, respectively.

Now in their third season as a varsity program, the Lions, whose next match is Tuesday against DeSales at Gahanna Lanes, are members of the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-North Division and plays their home matches at Gahanna Lanes.

"I think the kids are bowling very well and learning new skills," said Zink, who is in his second season with the Lions. "They know each other and they know what I expect from them, so we work well as a team."

Before the postseason starts in February, Zink not only wants to see his bowlers continue to improve their skills, but improve their mental toughness as well.

"The worse thing that can happen is you get stressed out," he said. "We're trying to build the kids' confidence. We want them to be a little more mentally confident."