With four first-year starters, the Gahanna Lincoln High School girls lacrosse team might face a few opponents this season that have the advantage in terms of experience.
The Lions are at least beginning to close the gap in terms of technique, according to senior Alyssa Rapelje.
One of a small group of players who were with the team in 2010 when Gahanna played mostly junior varsity teams with a few varsity games mixed in, Rapelje has watched her team grow in numbers and skills.
The Lions, who have a junior varsity team for the first time this spring, split their first two games after going 11-7 a year ago.
“We’re still a very young team,” said Rapelje, a center-midfielder who moved onto the recruiting radar while playing for the NorthStar club program last summer and has signed with Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa. “Even our varsity team has a few girls who have never played before, but we have plays now that we can run, which gives us an opportunity to build. They’ve been pushing the more experienced players to get as many assists on goals as we can.”
Rapelje, who had 44 goals and was named the team’s Most Valuable Player last season, is among the offensive leaders again this season with junior Anna Tarbutton, who had 65 goals last season.
The Lions opened with a 17-9 loss to Olentangy Orange on April 3 but beat Granville 13-9 on April 5. Rapelje and Bre Moser each scored two goals against Orange, which led the Lions 9-6 at halftime.
Against Granville, Rapelje had four goals, Tarbutton scored three and Moser, Kelsey Francis and Emily Resch each scored two.
Coach Brooke Eisenacher took over the program last season after Chelsea Huguenard left to coach at Olentangy. Huguenard coached the Lions during their inaugural season in 2010.
“Our first coach was really good at developing individual skills,” said Rapelje, who was named an academic All-American last season by US Lacrosse. “Coach Eisenacher is really good at explaining a lot of things to the girls.”
Juniors Taylor Kulow and Becca Scowden and freshmen Kandace Glanville and Erica Rapelje are starters who are new to the program.
“My whole team is playing so well,” Eisenacher said. “We’re really coming together. I like how we’re playing as a team instead of as individuals. I feel like I’m able to ask more from my starters this year, whereas last year I only asked the basics from them.”
Boys team off to strong start
The boys team won four of its first five games before playing Pickerington North on April 11. The Lions play their OCC-Ohio Division opener on Friday, April 13, at Olentangy Liberty.
After opening with a 12-11 overtime win over Westerville South on March 23, Gahanna traveled to northeast Ohio for a pair of games against newer programs. The Lions beat Fairview 17-4 on March 30 and defeated Youngstown Mooney 16-3 on March 31 in the Steel Valley Showcase at Hiram College.
“We had a good weekend up in Hiram,” coach Brett Dillon said. “The whole purpose of the trip was to help grow the game. We played a couple teams that were where we were five years ago, and we got our guys away from some of the distractions back here. We were a little better skilled than our opposition, so we worked on moving ball, adding one more pass.”
Gahanna lost to DeSales 17-5 on April 4 but got four goals apiece from senior Andrew Fuss and freshman Austin Chrobak, three from junior Nate Strong and one from senior Thomas Fuss in a 12-11 overtime win over Westerville North the next day.
Another standout early on has been junior Will Bradshaw, who is the faceoff midfielder.
David Despas, a junior midfielder, has been out with an injury.
“Andrew and Thomas Fuss have been playing well, and Will Bradshaw is over 80 percent in faceoffs,” Dillon said. “(Bradshaw) was one of our three guys doing faceoffs last year. He’s compact, strong and he’s got quick hands.”