The Gahanna Lincoln High School boys tennis team had a run of three consecutive OCC-Ohio Division championships snapped a year ago by Pickerington North, and coach Chris Schwinnen sees the Panthers as the favorite again this spring.
That's not to count out his own team, which Schwinnen believes has the returning talent to make a name for itself.
"I think (the league title race) is as open as it's ever been," said Schwinnen, who is in his fourth season. "Pickerington North is the team to beat, but we're going to make them work for it."
The biggest reason for optimism is the return of senior Canyon Teague, who wasn't available until late April of last season because of a stress fracture in his back but recovered enough to advance to the Division I state tournament.
Teague will play first singles, with returning senior Aaron Thomas expected to be at second singles. Senior John Spain, who split time between singles and first doubles last season, began the season April 4 against Hilliard Davidson at first doubles with freshman Chris Kusovski.
Sophomore Eric Chen is at third singles. Juniors Stefn Sandberg and Zach Horn are at second doubles.
Also looking to contribute are juniors Minh Dang, Micah Heintzelman and Justin Solze.
Gahanna beat Davidson 3-2 and opened league play April 9 against visiting Groveport.
Gahanna went 9-7 overall last season and 5-2 (47 points) in the OCC-Ohio to place third behind Pickerington North (63, 7-0) and Reynoldsburg (60, 6-1) and ahead of Grove City (32, 4-3), Pickerington Central (29, 3-4), Lancaster (18, 2-5), Groveport (16, 1-6) and Newark (3, 0-7).
In the league tournament, Teague and 2012 graduate Daniel Emoff won the first doubles title and 2012 graduate Sam Raybuck was second at third singles.
Teague was one of a program-record five district qualifiers last season. He placed fourth at district to advance to state and then lost to Perrysburg's Jeffrey Schorsch 6-0, 6-1 in his opening state match to finish 11-5.
Also at district, the doubles teams of Raybuck and 2012 graduate Alex Gavrilov and Emoff and Chen lost in the first round.
"Last year Canyon had a stress fracture and didn't end up starting until April 19," Schwinnen said. "He's firing on all cylinders now."
Girls lacrosse team 'flustered' by Hawks
The girls lacrosse team avenged a 12-9 loss to OCC-Central-foe Westerville Central a year ago when it defeated the Warhawks 11-9 in its opener April 2.
Hartley did the same thing to the Lions on April 4 when it won 8-3 at home a year after losing to Gahanna 15-12.
The loss showed coach Brooke Eisenacher an area in which her team needs to improve.
"We aren't used to playing against high-pressure defenses and (Hartley) played real tight defense on us," Eisenacher said. "I think we got flustered."
The Lions, who lost to Olentangy Orange 16-8 on April 8 and played Marysville on April 9, resume league action when they play host to Westerville North on Thursday, April 11, and Westerville South on Tuesday, April 16.
In the opener, senior attacker Kelsey Francis finished with four goals and three assists and freshman goalkeeper Catie Rogers had 13 saves.
Senior defender Bianca Brutovski and senior midfielder Bre Moser also have been early standouts, according to Eisenacher.
"I'm anxious to see how the rest of the season is going to go," Eisenacher said. "We're starting to connect as a team and have a lot of assisted goals. Kelsey Francis had an amazing game (against Westerville Central)."
Boys lacrosse team relying on defense
The boys lacrosse team couldn't hold a 3-1 lead during a 5-4 loss in its opener April 3 against visiting Pickerington Central.
The Lions, who led 2-0 at halftime against the Tigers, also lost to Watterson 16-7 on April 6 and opened OCC-Ohio play April 10 against Orange.
They continue league play Friday, April 12, at home against Olentangy and Wednesday, April 17, at Olentangy Liberty.
"Our goalkeeper (senior Kevin Crane) had a good game (against Pickerington Central) and our defense played well," coach Brett Dillon said. "We knew we had some challenges on the offensive side and we knew coming in that we could play defense."
Senior Nate Strong (attacker/midfielder) had two goals and senior David Despas (attacker/midfielder) and sophomore Austin Chroback (attacker) both had one goal in the opening loss, during which the Lions took 34 shots.
Dillon hopes his team will take closer to 60 shots per game.
"I thought their goalie did a great job, but we didn't shoot it enough," Dillon said. "We took about half as many shots as we needed to and lost by one goal."