With several challenging games looming, Gahanna Lincoln High School girls soccer coach Jason Hardin is taking comfort that his defense hasn't leaned heavily on any individual.
The Lions have a versatile player they can turn to in senior Megan Barrick, a Cleveland State University recruit who has split time between center back and midfielder this season.
Senior defenders Kathleen Carley and Sarah Sculley also have been steady contributors, while senior Maddie Marquez was settling into a regular role in the back as well before going down with a knee injury last week.
An added bonus has been the play of senior goalkeeper Abby Hersey, who had 23 saves through six games. She had played in the field before becoming the Lions' starting goalie last year.
The Lions play host to Watterson on Saturday, Sept. 22, and face Grove City on Tuesday, Sept. 25, at home. Watterson is 6-2 heading into a game against Thomas Worthington on Thursday, Sept. 20, and Grove City was 4-2-3 before playing Pickerington Central on Sept. 18.
"We were really starting to jell in the back before Maddie Marquez got hurt," Hardin said. "The girls have been playing really well. Our goalie has really come into her own. She's really been communicating well with the defense and has started to mature as a keeper. She's been making some great saves."
Hersey had eight saves in each of Gahanna's first two losses, 1-0 to Dublin Coffman on Aug. 25 and 4-2 to Perrysburg on Sept. 8. She had three saves in a 1-all tie with Olentangy Liberty on Aug. 30.
Last season, Coffman was a Division I regional finalist and Perrysburg beat the Lions 6-3 in the regular season and went on to reach a regional semifinal. In the state poll last week, Perrysburg was first and Coffman was fourth.
"With (Hersey) being a former field player, we feel confident with the ball at her feet," Hardin said.
"We need to have a little bit better communication, but overall it's been good," Hersey said. "I think we're coming along from where we were last year. I've tried to not hesitate as much coming out to get the ball and feel comfortable with our defense. Last year was my first full year as the goalkeeper, so I've just tried to work on my intensity. It's exciting."
Despite the fact that the Lions had been shut out in back-to-back games before playing Lancaster on Sept. 18, Hersey enjoys being on a team with talented offensive players such as senior forward Maggie Mayo and senior center midfielder Kari Weinland. Through eight games, Weinland had six goals and seven assists and Mayo had eight goals and two assists.
"They give our team a little more of a boost," Hersey said.
After not having Mayo during the preseason and in the season opener because of an injury, Hardin believes both his offense and defense will continue to take strides forward even if Marquez is out for a significant amount of time.
"We got five goals in the first half (in a 6-0 win over Reynoldsburg on Sept. 11), and we didn't expect that against those guys," Hardin said. "We've had good results against state-ranked teams so far."