The practice schedule for the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys soccer team has included a new wrinkle this fall.
The day after edging Westerville Central 1-0 on Sept. 13, the Lions spent about an hour watching a replay of the final 10 minutes of the victory. They also had spent significant time watching game film after a 4-0 loss to Olentangy Liberty on Aug. 25.
Senior forward Andrew Schwall believes the Lions benefit from the extra analysis they have been getting in the film room.
"Last year and in years in the past, I don't think we've watched too much film," he said. "This year it's helped us tremendously. We've gone in and watched film and then gone out to the soccer field. I know we watched some film of (a 3-2 win over) Reynoldsburg (on Sept. 11) and of games that have been close."
The benefits have been evident in the play of Schwall, who had a team-best 13 goals through 11 games.
He scored all three goals against Reynoldsburg, scored one goal in a 2-0 victory over Lancaster on Sept. 18, scored the Lions' only goal in a 1-all tie with Dublin Jerome on Sept. 20 and had one goal in a 3-0 win over Bexley on Sept. 22.
Gahanna was 8-1-2 overall and 4-0 in the OCC-Ohio Division before playing Grove City on Sept. 25. The Lions play Saturday, Sept. 29, at Dublin Coffman and Tuesday, Oct. 2, at Pickerington North in a league contest.
"We've been watching a lot of film, and that's helped me as well as the rest of the staff and players," first-year coach Todd Keenan said. "We spent an hour on the last 10 minutes of the Westerville Central game, and it was great to see just the willingness of the boys to do so. The boys are all just working hard in every practice. ... We want to work harder than every team in the state."
The Lions have been focusing on improving on set plays and in one-on-one situations.
Another standout in addition to Schwall has been junior midfielder Jaden Lunger, who played nearly every minute of the Lions' first 10 games and is one of the team's defensive leaders.
Schwall is a defender for his club team, which Keenan believes gives him a unique perspective of the field.
The play of Schwall and Lunger, according to Keenan, is among the biggest reasons the Lions haven't taken a step backward after losing nearly all of their key players from a year ago.
"We knew coming into the season that we had a pretty new team, but we've stayed focused in our practices," Schwall said. "I think the fact that we're all so close as a team means we can work well with each other and can pass (the ball) well to each other. We've been focused and there's been no goofing off."
Coaches happy with runners' improvement
The boys and girls cross country teams will compete Saturday, Sept. 29, in the Erin Nance Fall Distance Classic at London Country Club.
The girls team is expected to get a boost for the remainder of the season from sophomore Heather Kincaid, who recently returned from a hip injury.
Kincaid, who finished fourth in the OCC-Ohio meet last year in 20 minutes, 38.1 seconds, missed the first three meets. On Sept. 15, she ran 21:22.52 in the open race of the Central Ohio Invitational at Three Creeks Metro Park.
The Lions placed third (76) in the 12-team meet behind Dublin Coffman (49) and Dublin Scioto (62) as sophomores Kelsey Sandlin (fifth, 19:04.14) and Rylee Tanner (seventh, 19:21.4), freshmen Kelsey Thompson (11th, 19:31.52) and Kearstin Turner (21st, 20:09.18) and senior Katie Baker (33rd, 20:49.08) scored.
The OCC-Ohio meet is Oct. 13 at Lancaster.
"We're progressing along pretty well and our girls are learning pretty well," coach Ernie Ziegler said. "This group doesn't get rattled. They just go out and run their race. Katie Baker is a captain who has worked really hard for four years. I know we've got five really good girls, but can we get some contributions from our sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th runners?
"We're going to ease (Kincaid) back in. She was our No. 1 runner last year for a few weeks, but we don't necessarily need her to do that yet."
The Central Ohio Invitational also is among the season highlights thus far for the boys team, according to coach Larry Schwade.
Gahanna scored 90 points in the 12-team meet to finish third behind Dublin Jerome (25) and Coffman (90). Coffman beat out the Lions for second place by winning the No. 6 runner tiebreaker.
Sophomore Matt Ridinger led the Lions (eighth, 16:27.84), followed by senior Trent Champlin (14th, 16:44.14), junior Chris Blakely (17th, 16:45.96), freshman Aaron Schaller (22nd, 16:52.34) and senior Joe Scott (29th, 17:04.71).
Sophomore Christian Weng-erter, a newcomer who has contributed after previously being in the boys soccer program, has been battling a leg injury.
"We've got a good, young team and we're improving every week by just leaps and bounds," Schwade said. "We've come a long way so far. The pieces are just slowly starting to fit together."