The Gahanna Lincoln High School girls volleyball team no longer appears to be in contention for the OCC-Ohio Division championship after starting 4-4 in league play.

The Gahanna Lincoln High School girls volleyball team no longer appears to be in contention for the OCC-Ohio Division championship after starting 4-4 in league play.

Therefore, coach Scot Holmes said the Lions have turned their attention to developing into a stronger squad in time for the Division I district tournament.

The tournament draw is Oct. 9 at Gahanna.

The Lions lost to 12th-seeded Westerville Central 25-21, 25-20, 25-12 in the first round of the tournament last year.

But in 2009, Gahanna beat 11th-seeded New Albany 25-22, 25-17, 25-20 in its tournament opener and defeated fourth-seeded Westerville Central 25-23, 25-19, 25-27, 20-25, 15-12 in a district semifinal before losing to seventh-seeded Thomas Worthington 23-25, 25-17, 25-17, 25-21 in a district final.

"We're not going to win the OCC this year, so we're working on getting better for the tournament," Holmes said. "We're trying to set ourselves up for the tournament by playing better volleyball the second half of the season to improve our record and show other teams how good we can be. We've proven in the past, that when it's tournament time, Gahanna can upset higher-seeded teams."

The Lions are looking forward to playing host to Pickerington North in a league match Tuesday, Oct. 4.

North, which is led by seniors Katie Barger (outside hitter), Meredith Bush (middle hitter) and Val Jeffery (setter) and junior middle hitter Katie Hunt, beat Gahanna 25-11, 25-22, 25-21 on Sept. 8.

The Panthers defeated Groveport 25-15, 25-7, 25-14 on Sept. 22 to improve to 12-1 overall and 8-0 in the OCC-Ohio heading into a league match Sept. 27 at Pickerington Central. Jeffery has verbally committed to High Point University in North Carolina.

"Pickerington North's a great team and beating them would be huge for our confidence," senior opposite hitter Morgan Sheets said. "Their blocking is strong, so we need to hit around their blockers. Our defense has been amazing and we need to keep doing a good job of digging their hits. We need to do a better job of covering the center of the court when they tip the ball."

Senior setter Emily Watson said her team showed tremendous improvement during a 25-22, 25-21, 20-25, 19-25, 15-9 loss to Newark in a league match Sept. 22.

Gahanna also lost to Newark 28-26, 26-28, 25-16, 25-12 in its season opener Aug. 30.

"We probably played our best volleyball of the season (Sept. 22) and we didn't give up after we lost the first two games," Watson said. "We took Newark to five games this time after they beat us in four early in the season, and this match could have went either way," Watson said. "Everyone's playing really well right now, and we're working really well as a team."

Holmes said Watson is leading the Lions in assists, while middle hitters Becca Scowden and Kelly Shannon have led the team in kills. Stacie Baumann, Beth Coccia and Casey Mers have been the team's top defensive players in the back row, Holmes said.

Holmes especially was impressed with the way his team rallied to beat Licking Valley 25-16, 20-25, 26-24 on Sept. 17. The Lions were down 21-10 in the third game before coming back.

"Our girls don't lay down when they fall behind," Holmes said. "We're a very solid defensive team, and when we're able to make some great defensive plays and win long rallies, that sparks us to come back and win games. I'm seeing massive improvements in all of our players, and now we've just got to go out and win more matches."