Gahanna Lincoln High School senior girls volleyball player Beth Coccia is into thrill seeking.
As the defensive specialist for a unit the Lions believe is the strength of their team, Coccia can't wait for the moments when it's a battle to keep her balance or dive to keep the ball from hitting the court.
There are few things she enjoys more than when she makes eye contact with an opponent after one of her digs keeps a rally going.
"I like the pressure," said Coccia, who has focused on defense the past two years after she saw action in a variety of roles during her first two seasons. "I like it when it's my job to decide how the play is going to start and I love to change the outcome of what people think is going to happen on a play."
With 6-foot-1 senior and Clarion University recruit Kelly Shannon leading the offense, Coccia leads a defense that also includes senior Casey Mers and juniors Katy Noel and Laryn O'Donnell.
Defense, according to coach Scot Holmes, was a key to the Lions winning six of their first seven matches. During that stretch, Gahanna defeated Grove City 14-25, 25-14, 23-25, 25-23, 15-11 on Sept. 11.
The Lions lost three of their next four before playing Pickerington Central on Sept. 18, including falling at Pickerington North 25-20, 25-13, 25-17 on Sept. 13, when Coccia believes her team's defense struggled.
"Beth just got us some really crucial points when we got down (against Grove City)," Holmes said. "We're definitely a defensive team. Very few balls are ever going to hit the ground. (Coccia) plays on the left side of the defense and is a great kid that reads the hitters really well and has a great serve. She gets so competitive and steps up to the plate. Her attitude is that you're not going to burn me twice. She's definitely one of the players that other teams talk about."
Gahanna, according to Holmes, is seeking more consistency in its hitting and passing.
"Pickerington North played the ball smart and they run a very smooth offense," Holmes said. "We just kind of lost focus and didn't execute on our side of the court. I do think we're on track. I just think we need to start executing more control with our ball handling and fixing where we're making more errors."
Defense shining for football team
The football team scored 83 points during its last two victories, but defense has been the steadying force behind its 4-0 start.
In a 38-14 win over Groveport on Sept. 14 in the opening night of OCC-Ohio Division play, the Lions held the Cruisers to 65 rushing yards, forced three fumbles and blocked a punt.
Two of Groveport's turnovers came in the fourth quarter, and Gahanna turned both into touchdowns. Senior Ben Foley scored the game's final touchdown when he fell on a fumble in the end zone.
Other standouts on defense have included linemen Collin Blaney and Granyl Smith, linebacker Mitchell Rowell and defensive back Emile Camm.
While Groveport fell to 1-3 with the loss to the Lions, Gahanna will face another team that is 1-3 when it travels Friday, Sept. 21, to Newark. The Wildcats lost to Pickerington North 56-0 on Sept. 14 and have lost their last six meetings with the Lions.
Gahanna will look for more consistency on offense after committing four first-half turnovers against Groveport. Alec Tuohy was intercepted twice, but the Lions finished with 339 total yards.
Work ethic paying off for boys golfers
The boys golf team, which was in second place at 13-5 in the OCC-Ohio before playing in the final round of league play Sept. 19 at Apple Valley, has developed a pair of strong players in senior Kenny Gaither and sophomore Ryan Beachy.
The success, according to coach Judy Ratzenberger, starts with what she has seen outside of matches.
"One of the greatest highlights (of our season) has been our practice ethic," said Ratzenberger, who is co-coach with Lori Scott. "Our players come to practice and work hard every day. It has been a joy to work with them and to see them take this part of the season so seriously. If they continue to work hard, we will see a great ending to our season."
The Lions have a pair of players in Gaither and Beachy who have averaged 80 for 18 holes.
On Aug. 17 in the W3 Invitational at Glenross, Gaither shot a 74. The Lions recorded a season-best 313 to win the Cardinal Invitational on Aug. 22 at Longaberger.
"Coach Scott and I have seen a lot of growth this season and many positives when our players make a commitment to stick with their match plans," Ratzenberger said. "Consistency has been an issue. We will continue to work on mental toughness and the short game when scoring occurs.
"We are counting on seeing much improvement and seeing our biggest highlights coming in the next few weeks."