The Gahanna High School boys volleyball team had an inconsistent season tied to a lack of height and experience.

The Gahanna High School boys volleyball team had an inconsistent season tied to a lack of height and experience.

In the Division I East Region tournament, Gahanna defeated Westerville North 25-16, 25-12, 25-22 in the first round May 16 but lost to Hilliard Davidson 25-18, 25-18, 25-10 in a regional semifinal four days later to finish 11-15.

It was the Lions' second loss this season to Davidson, and in terms of the score, it played out much like a 25-20, 27-25, 25-25 loss to the Wildcats on April 11.

"We were playing pretty well the first two games," said senior Nate Deuber, who was second-team all-OCC-Capital Division. "In the third game, the momentum really swung (Davidson's) way and things kind of fell apart."

When the season started, coach Mike Sage said the Lions would have to overcome the fact that they had less height than last year's team after losing all-state middle-hitter Ryan Engel, who helped lead them to the OCC-Ohio championship a season ago.

The Lions opened 2-8, leading Sage to make some changes. Deuber, who was being called on to switch from right-side hitter, where he played last year, to middle hitter to solidify the vacant position, was moved back to right-side hitter. To take his place in the middle, Sage called up Lance Wiles from the junior varsity. Wiles was the tallest player on the front line.

His first match was against OCC-Capital Division-rival Mount Vernon on April 21. The Lions lost 25-12, 25-8, 25-13. After that, they won six of their next nine.

"One of the big things (calling up Wiles) gave us was a lot more height in the middle," Deuber said. "And I got to get a few more touches, which worked better for me."

The Lions ended up third in the OCC-Capital at 4-4 behind Mount Vernon (8-0) and Pickerington North (6-2) and ahead of Delaware (2-6) and Pickerington Central (0-8).

Sage picked Mount Vernon as the team to beat in the OCC-Capital when the season started given the fact it was a state semifinalist last year. The Lions also lost to Mount Vernon on May 7, 25-16, 25-19, 25-16.

The other two league losses were to Pickerington North (25-21, 25-20, 22-25, 25-21 on April 14; 25-12, 25-20, 25-20 on April 30).

The league wins came over Delaware (25-14, 25-18, 25-14 on April 16; 25-17, 25-23, 25-18 on May 5) and Pickerington Central (25-18, 25-21, 25-18 on March 31; 25-19, 21-25, 25-9, 25-17, 15-3 on April 23).

"I thought (the season) was going to go a lot better," Deuber said. "We only had two players coming back. That played a part. (The regional tournament games were) just something that they never had to deal with before."

Next season the Lions are expected to have the added benefit of consistency. Gahanna is set to lose three seniors, but should return a large junior class.

Gahanna will lose seniors Deuber, Nick Frisone (honorable mention all-OCC), Bryce Love (first-team all-OCC), Casey Peirano (second-team all-OCC) and Nick Stelzer. Expected to return are juniors, Kevin Geary, Bret Holenbauch (first-team all-OCC), Brandon Mason, Matt Moyer, Travis Murray, Jacob Sargent and the sophomore Wiles. Freshman Michael Tobin is also expected to return.

Holenbauch and Wiles are expected to solidify the middle Sage said and Brandon Mason and Travis Murray are expected to give the Lions the luxury of two experienced setters.

At a glance

•Record: 11-15 overall, 4-4 (third) in OCC-Capital

•Seniors lost: Nate Deuber, Nick Frisone, Bryce Love, Casey Peirano and Nick Stelzer

•Key returnees: Bret Holenbauch, Brandon Mason and Travis Murray