Words are hard to come by after a defeat like the one the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys volleyball team suffered against Hilliard Bradley in a Division I East Region final May 19 on its home floor.

Words are hard to come by after a defeat like the one the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys volleyball team suffered against Hilliard Bradley in a Division I East Region final May 19 on its home floor.

The second-seeded Lions, who already had swept both matches from the Jaguars during the regular season en route to the OCC-Capital Division championship, won the opening two games and battled back from an early deficit in the third to forge an 8-all tie.

Then everything fell apart.

Fourth-seeded Bradley seized the momentum to take the third game and also jumped out to early leads in each of the next two. In the fourth game, the Lions scrambled to take a 25-24 advantage and needed only one more point to secure their first berth in the state tournament since 1991.

Instead, Gahanna had to settle for a third consecutive runner-up trophy as the Jaguars stole a 17-25, 21-25, 25-20, 27-25, 15-9 victory.

"Everyone's disappointed, obviously," ninth-year coach Mike Sage said. "The locker room, it was awfully quiet like you'd expect. I just told the boys how they should be proud of the season we had. I'm sure they'll get there, but it's going to take some time."

The Lions, who finished 20-7 overall, defeated Pickerington Central for a third time by posting a 25-7, 25-17, 25-11 victory in a first-round tournament match on May 12 and eliminated St. Charles 25-17, 25-20, 25-17 in a regional semifinal on May 19.

They couldn't get a third win over Bradley, however. Gahanna twice rallied for a 22-25, 25-23, 22-25, 26-24, 15-5 victory in the first match on April 3 and also prevailed 26-24, 25-27, 25-23, 18-25, 15-9 on April 26.

"We went five (games) with them twice before," Sage said. "And if we played again, we'd probably go five again. These teams were pretty evenly matched, but this time they put runs together we couldn't counter."

The Lions went 10-0 to win the OCC-Capital ahead of Bradley (8-2), Mount Vernon (6-4), Pickerington North (4-6), Delaware (2-8) and Central (0-10). They dropped only six games in league play overall, including one each in the two matches with Mount Vernon, and needed just three games in six of the victories.

Josh Geary, a junior setter, was named the OCC-Capital's Player of the Year. He was joined on the first team by senior Sergio Bruyako while senior Jonathan Harrison and junior Austin Washburn both made second-team all-league. Senior Michael Tobin was special mention all-league and senior Cody Hoffman made honorable mention.

Bruyako also made first-team all-region while Geary was second-team. Harrison and Tobin made honorable-mention all-region.

"We're bringing three kids back (including freshman Nathan Matthews) and we'll have a big junior class next year," Sage said. "Hopefully, we'll move forward from this."