The Gahanna Lincoln High School girls lacrosse program is hoping it is ready to take another step this spring.
After playing its first varsity games in 2010, the Lions played a full varsity schedule for the first time in 2011 during coach Brooke Eisenacher's first season.
Now in its third season under Eisenacher, Gahanna has continued to increase its participation numbers at the middle school and high school levels and will compete in the Division I regional tournament for the first time.
"Now come tournament time, we're thrown in with the big dogs in Division I," Eisenacher said. "I scheduled a couple harder games because I know that. We've grown so much. Now we've got 17 girls playing at the middle school, so it's so nice to see it grow. It'll be helpful once we graduate seven seniors."
The Lions' varsity experience provides reason for Eisenacher to hope her team won't be overwhelmed once it faces established teams like Thomas Worthington on May 10 on the road as well as its postseason opponents.
Eisenacher is a 1996 Thomas graduate who previously assisted at Worthington Kilbourne.
Seniors Maggie Maley (midfielder), Bre Moser (midfielder) and Anna Tarbutton (attacker) are the top returnees.
Last season, Gahanna went 7-7-1 overall, losing to Granville 13-12 in overtime in the second round of the North/Central Region club division tournament.
Moser, who had six goals in the tournament loss, has committed to Lake Erie College. Tarbutton has been out with a knee injury but could return for the Lions' opener Tuesday, April 2, against visiting Westerville Central.
The other seniors are Bianca Brutovski (defender/midfielder), Kelsey Francis (attacker), Taylor Kulow (defender) and Becca Scowden (defender).
Also back are sophomores Erica Rapelje (attacker/midfielder) and Amanda Sorrell (goalkeeper).
Other key players should include juniors Amy Bott (defender), Cara Caldwell (midfielder) and Taylor Teutsch (midfielder).
New to the coaching staff are Lindsey Hanners and Michelle Hanners, both of whom played for Columbus School for Girls and Wittenberg University.
Freshman Catie Rogers is competing with Sorrell for minutes at goalkeeper.
Last season, Gahanna went 4-3 in the OCC-Central Division to place fourth behind Pickerington North (7-0), Pickerington Central (5-2) and Westerville South (5-2) and ahead of Westerville Central (3-4), Delaware (2-5), Westerville North (2-5) and Big Walnut (0-7).
Alyssa Rapelje, who was first-team all-state, is playing for Allegheny College. Emily Resch, a senior who had been a key player the last two seasons, is not back with the program.
"We've got a lot of seniors, so we're doing really well this year," Eisenacher said.
Boys team has younger look
Boys lacrosse coach Brett Dillon was reminded of how special a duo he had the past few years when he heard about the success 2012 graduates Andrew Fuss and Thomas Fuss have had this season as freshmen at Wittenberg.
The brothers were among seven seniors who helped Gahanna go 13-5 a year ago.
The Lions open Wednesday, April 3, against Pickerington Central.
"We graduated quite a few guys," said Dillon, who is in his sixth season. "I knew (the Fuss brothers) were really good, although I didn't think both of them would be starting as freshmen in college. In the meantime, we've got a couple guys back on the offensive end, one strong defender back and really everybody else is very young."
Senior Collin Blaney, who made second-team all-region last year, returns at defender. Seniors Will Bradshaw (midfielder) and Nate Strong (attacker/midfielder) are other key returnees.
The other seniors are A.J. Butler (goalkeeper), Kevin Crane (goalkeeper), David Despas (attacker/midfielder) and Kevin Schollenberger (midfielder).
Butler was a goalie on the junior varsity last year, while Crane is new to the position after being a midfielder a season ago.
Sophomore Austin Chrobak is expected to take on a key role at attacker after starting at times last season.
Junior goalie Casey Jolley, who had 12 saves in Gahanna's 21-7 loss to Worthington Kilbourne in the second round of the Division I Central Region tournament last year, is out for the season with an injury.
Others looking to contribute include juniors Jordan Sprunger (defender) and Ben Foley (defender), sophomore Colby Hanna (midfielder) and freshmen Jake Chobany (attacker) and Jack Kunkle (midfielder).
Last season, Gahanna went 4-2 to tie Olentangy Liberty for third in the OCC-Ohio, behind co-champions Olentangy and New Albany (5-1) and ahead of Hilliard Bradley (2-4), Hilliard Darby (1-5) and Olentangy Orange (0-6).
Andrew Fuss made second-team all-region and finished with 107 points. Thomas Fuss was honorable mention all-region and had 91 points. Classmates Nate Hengstebeck (defender), Sean Moser (midfielder), Nick Vourvopoulos (defender) and Mike Wilson (goalkeeper) also were key players.
Gahanna opened the tournament with a 15-10 win over Westerville Central, marking the second time in its first three seasons in Division I that it had won at least one tournament game.
"We're kind of doing a trial by fire this year, but that's nothing new particularly in Gahanna because it's still a young program," Dillon said.