In both the league race and the Division I regional tournament, the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys volleyball team couldn't get past Mount Vernon.

In both the league race and the Division I regional tournament, the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys volleyball team couldn't get past Mount Vernon.

The Lions fell to the defending state champions 25-13, 25-17, 25-20 in a Division I regional final last Saturday to finish the season 18-9 overall and 6-4 in the OCC-Capital Division.

"We knew we were going to have to play our best to beat them," coach Mike Sage said. "I'm very proud of the season. The teams that we did lose to were all good teams. Three of the four regional finalists were from our OCC."

It was the third loss this season to the Yellow Jackets. The Lions lost the first match 25-18, 25-12, 25-13 on April 19. They fell again to Mount Vernon 25-15, 25-21, 25-13 on May 7.

The Lions finished third in the OCC-Capital behind Mount Vernon (10-0) and Pickerington North (8-2). Hilliard Bradley was fourth (3-7), followed by Delaware (2-8) and Pickerington Central (1-9).

Pickerington North played in the other regional final, losing to Hilliard Darby 25-12, 25-17, 25-17 last Saturday.

Gahanna's final loss ended a postseason run that was one level deeper than last season.

The Lions entered the postseason feeling good about their chances of meeting Mount Vernon again.

At the time, they had rebounded from losing to Pickerington North 25-20, 25-10, 25-18 on April 29, which was a low point in the season. The Lions were optimistic about winning that match because the first meeting with North was much closer, a 25-20, 27-29, 25-16, 24-26, 15-12 loss on April 6.

After the second North loss, the Lions won four of their final five regular-season matches. The only loss was the second meeting with Mount Vernon.

Two days before that match, senior setter Brandon Mason had a feeling things were getting better.

"We tried to stay focused and we've won against (Delaware 25-13, 25-20, 25-17 on May 4 and Westerville Central 25-20, 25-13, 25-16 on May 5)," Mason said. "We're starting to get back hot again."

In the tournament, Gahanna beat Worthington Kilbourne 31-29, 18-25, 28-30, 25-23, 15-11 in a first-round match on May 15. Four days later, the Lions beat Dublin Coffman 25-23, 25-20, 20-25, 25-23 in a regional semifinal.

The Lions are set to lose seniors Kevin Geary, Brett Hollenbach, Mason, Matthew Moyer and Travis Murray. Hollenbach was named first-team all OCC-Capital. Moyer and Murray were second-team.

The Lions should have some firepower returning on offense in juniors Lance Wiles, a 6-foot-7 middle hitter, Josh Gruenbaum (outside hitter) and Riley Bolte (right-side hitter).

Also expected to return are junior Jerry Vo (libero) and sophomore Michael Tobin.

The Lions employ two setters in their 6-2 alignment and next year have to replace Mason and Murray at those positions.

"Our j.v. team was all sophomores," Sage said. "We'll have a sophomore setter next year and the learning curve will be pretty steep. With what we have coming up and the core of guys coming back, it should be a reload situation next year. Our program is pretty deep right now."

At a glance

•Record: 18-9 overall, 6-4 (third) in OCC-Capital •Seniors lost: Kevin Geary, Brett Hollenbach, Brandon Mason, Matthew Moyer and Travis Murray •Key returnees: Riley Bolte, Josh Gruenbaum and Lance Wiles