After the Gahanna Lincoln High School girls soccer team built a 3-0 halftime lead on Hilliard Darby in the second round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 22, the Lions could sense they were headed to unfamiliar territory.

After the Gahanna Lincoln High School girls soccer team built a 3-0 halftime lead on Hilliard Darby in the second round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 22, the Lions could sense they were headed to unfamiliar territory.

"The girls are very excited right now and told me after we beat Darby 4-0 that they had never been as far as a district semifinal before," second-year coach Jason Hardin said. "But we're playing well right now and the confidence has risen."

With a roster of only five seniors and a young squad overall, it's not surprising that these Lions haven't reached a district semifinal. However, the span of seasons in which the program had not reached a district semifinal was much longer. The Lions had not advanced past the second round since before 2000.

"I've been told the girls team has never won a district championship, so if we can put together two more good games, we could be the first," Hardin said.

The Lions played fifth-seeded Dublin Coffman last Wednesday in a semifinal, with the winner advancing to a district championship 3 p.m. Saturday at Wellington against either second-seeded Watterson or seventh-seeded Dublin Jerome.

Freshman forward Kari Weinland scored twice against Darby and the Lions improved to 11-4-3. Weinland scored three times in the district opener Oct. 20 when Gahanna downed Watkins Memorial 4-1.

"She's very talented and a good all-around player," Hardin said. "Although she had five goals and an assist in our first two tournament games, she's far from the only one who has stepped up her game. We're passing well. Our possession is much better than it had been. We're moving the ball through the midfield, just getting more movement up top. That's making it difficult for teams to know what's coming and harder to defend."

The Lions opened 6-0-3 before hitting a rough spot with four losses in eight days. They fell to Pickerington North 2-1 on Sept. 22, Jerome 1-0 on Sept. 24, Westerville Central 3-0 on Sept. 26 and Worthington Kilbourne 2-1 on Sept. 29.

They regained some confidence by winning their last three games in the regular season.

"What helped turn things around again was getting some rest and just having some time," Hardin said. "We were playing three games a week for the better part of the season and just got worn down. But we only played three times in October over a stretch of 19 days before the tournament began. So, we got some rest and worked things out in practices. Plus, with us being a young team, the more time that passed (from the losing streak), the more we forgot about it and moved on. So we were able to get our confidence back."

In the first meeting against Jerome, forward Carli Pimm scored the game's only goal in the second half. It was a non-league game after the Lions had lost their first game of the season. The Lions also knew the contest against North would likely decide the OCC-Ohio Division championship.

It did. The Panthers won the title at 6-0 and the Lions were runners-up at 5-1.

"The loss to North seemed to take a lot out of us," Hardin said. "We played very hard, really worked our butts off and I think there was a lingering affect against Jerome."

Jerome was 11-3-4 before playing Watterson last Tuesday. The Eagles were 14-2-1.

The Celtics defeated Watterson 2-1 in their opener Aug. 27. Jerome is led by Pimm, midfielder Lindsay Agnew, defenders Carli Gasparro and Olivia Warzycha and goalkeeper Megan O'Donnell.

The Eagles are led by four players who have earned Division I college scholarships -- midfielder Kelly DeNiro (Akron) and defenders Molly Cantwell (Toledo), Ellie Gavin (St. Francis, Pa.) and Bridget Lynch (Duquesne).

The district champion is at 7 p.m. Wednesday in a regional semifinal at Upper Arlington against the winner of the Central District 2 bracket. Third-seeded Pickerington North faces 11th-seeded Dublin Scioto in one semifinal, with fourth-seeded Olentangy Liberty battling seventh-seeded Westerville North in the other. Of that group, the Lions have played only Pickerington North.

•The boys team roughed up Walnut Ridge 6-0 in the second round of the Division I district tournament last Saturday. Cody Popelas led the team with two goals.

The top-seeded Lions, who had a first-round bye, improved to 16-0-1 and played Hilliard Darby in a district semifinal last Wednesday. The winner plays for a district championship 7 p.m. Saturday at Upper Arlington against eighth-seeded Dublin Coffman or New Albany.

Gahanna won district titles in 2005 and 2006 and was runner-up in 2002. Last season, the Lions lost to Upper Arlington 1-0 in a shootout in a district semifinal.

The Lions didn't play New Albany, but beat Coffman 3-0 in the opener Aug. 29. Chris Davis, Wil Trapp and Tyler Wollum all scored and Ryan Grimme had eight saves.

"That means nothing because that was the first game of the season and we're both different teams now," coach Dwayne Marshall said. "Coffman was a closer game than the score shows. They've got solid players and good speed."

The district winner plays in a regional semifinal 7 p.m. Tuesday at Dublin Coffman against the survivor of the Central District 1 bracket, where fourth-seeded Hilliard Davidson faces 12th-seeded Thomas Worthington in one semifinal and fifth-seeded Dublin Scioto battles 10th-seeded Pickerington North in the other.

The Lions beat Pickerington North 2-0 in league play Sept. 22, but have not played Davidson, Thomas or Scioto this season.