Gahanna Lincoln High School boys lacrosse coach Brett Dillon believes his team has enough athletes to become one of central Ohio's top Division I programs in the near future.

Gahanna Lincoln High School boys lacrosse coach Brett Dillon believes his team has enough athletes to become one of central Ohio's top Division I programs in the near future.

This season was all about getting acclimated to playing a schedule against mostly Division I opponents, and at times the Lions appeared ready to make the leap.

A year after winning only one game in the OCC-Ohio Division, Gahanna tied Olentangy Orange for fourth in the league at 2-4, behind New Albany (6-0), Olentangy Liberty (5-1) and Olentangy (4-2), and ahead of Hilliard Bradley (1-5) and Hilliard Darby (1-5).

However, once the Lions began play in the Division I tournament for the first time after previously competing in either Division II or the Club Division, they really seemed to hit their stride.

During the final week of the regular season, Gahanna lost to OCC-Central champion Westerville North 15-7 before bouncing back to beat Pickerington Central 16-9 on May 14 and Perrysburg 16-6 on May 15.

The Lions carried the momentum of winning their final two regular-season games into a rematch against North on May 20 in the first round of the tournament and rallied from a late deficit to win 15-14.

Then, last Saturday, Gahanna took St. Charles - one of central Ohio's older programs - to two overtimes before losing 11-10 to finish with an 11-8 record.

The win over North was the Lions' first in the postseason. They lost to DeSales 16-7 in the first round of the Division II tournament last year.

"We definitely stepped it up since we moved up a division," senior attacker Nate Hays said. "This is the first (tournament game) we've ever won. It's helping us build a program. We played (North) last week and lost to them by (eight) goals, so this was amazing to beat them. It was great to beat them."

In its tournament opener, Gahanna trailed North 13-11 with 7 minutes, 23 seconds to go, but tied it at 13 on a goal by sophomore attacker Andrew Fuss with 3:47 remaining. Hays scored with 2:08 to go for a 14-13 lead, only to see the Warriors tie it at 14 eight seconds later. But with 1:15 left, senior Jeff Moore scored what proved to be the winning goal off a pass from Hays.

Sophomore attacker Thomas Fuss and Hays both had four goals, senior attacker Brad Tarbutton scored three and Andrew Fuss scored two.

In the loss to St. Charles, Gahanna led 6-3 at halftime. Moore and Andrew Fuss both had three goals and Thomas Fuss and senior John Mercurio both scored two.

Senior goalkeeper Adam LaChappelle, who averaged 15 saves, had 27 saves in the tournament loss.

"We've been a first-round knockout ever since we've been a varsity sport," said Dillon, who completed his fourth season as coach. "We played (North) settled and they scored nine transition goals the first time we played them. We were able to beat them pretty much straight up this time."

The Lions will lose 10 seniors, including Hays, LaChappelle, Mercurio and Tarbutton, each of whom has been a key player the last two seasons.

Andrew and Thomas Fuss and their brother, David, a junior, should be among the key returnees.

•After years of considering putting together a varsity team, Gahanna fielded a girls squad, which played mostly a junior varsity schedule with a few varsity games under first-year coach Chelsea Huguenard.

The Lions lost to Big Walnut 5-4 on March 25 in their first game against varsity competition and also lost varsity games to Bexley 17-6 on May 14 and Hilliard Darby 20-4 on May 4.

Gahanna competed in the Club Division tournament and was defeated by Toledo Ottawa Hills 21-8 in a first-round game last Saturday.

Alyssa Prior and Shannon Tylka were senior captains. Sophomore Alyssa Rapelje and freshman Emily Resch should be among the top returnees next year.

At a glance


•Record: 11-8 overall, 2-4 (tied for fourth) in OCC-Ohio •Seniors lost: Daniel Finkel, Nate Hays, Chris Kuhar, Adam LaChappelle, Austin Lewis, John Mercurio, Jeff Moore, Austin Morley, Ben Schembri, Brad Tarbutton and Phil Wellmer •Key returnees: Andrew Fuss, David Fuss and Thomas Fuss