Whether or not it can keep things in perspective could make or break the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys soccer team this fall.
With perennially strong programs such as Upper Arlington (opener Thursday, Aug. 22), Olentangy Liberty (Saturday, Aug. 24), Thomas Worthington (Aug. 29) and Westerville Central (Sept. 5) on their early non-league schedule, the Lions could endure growing pains after losing 12 players from a year ago to graduation.
If everything goes according to plan, though, any potential struggles won't overtake Gahanna in the long run.
"I told them it might look bad in August, but we've got to make a lot of mistakes and learn from them," coach Todd Keenan said. "We've got a good core back, but we're going to make some mistakes early."
Gahanna returns eight letterwinners after going 15-2-3 overall last season and winning its third Division I district championship in four seasons. The Lions lost to Dublin Coffman 2-1 in overtime in a regional semifinal.
The top returnees are seniors Jaden Lunger (midfielder), Hayden Pfeifer (defender), Christian Grimme (goalkeeper) and Jacob Johnson (midfielder) and sophomore Chad Barrick (defender).
Seniors Eric Batke (midfielder) and Tyler Collins (midfielder) each started a few games as well.
Barrick will be joined in the back by senior Kent Magnuson and juniors Duncan Thomas and Alex Alatsis.
Sophomores Nicholas Christ-off and Cole Popelas are expected to start in the midfield.
Also looking to contribute are senior Duncan Jones (midfielder) and sophomore Jace Lukascko (midfielder).
Gahanna, which has won nine consecutive OCC-Ohio Division championships, was led a year ago by 2013 graduate Andrew Schwall. He had 30 goals and six assists, including a program-record seven goals in a 10-0 win over Columbus West in the first round of the district tournament.
Schwall made the ThisWeek Super 12 while classmate Caleb Gruenbaum, who had four goals and 21 assists, was Super 12 honorable mention.
Schwall was the league's Player of the Year, and Gruenbaum and 2013 graduate Bryan Kromer also were first-team all-league.
Grimme, Johnson and Lunger all made second-team all-league.
"We don't take the OCC for granted, and each year our senior group makes it their goal to win the OCC," Keenan said. "It's a really good mix of guys with four hard-working juniors and four skilled sophomores along with our seniors."
Girls soccer team getting fresh start
Coming off a 2011 season in which it won its first district title, the girls soccer team couldn't overcome injuries and slipped to 6-9-1 a year ago.
Nine players have since been lost to graduation, and the Lions also have a new coach in 2006 Reynoldsburg graduate Natasha Ballard.
Ballard, who played for Capital University and previously assisted at Pickerington North, Bexley and Wellington, will have several young players in key positions.
"We lost (a lot) of seniors from last year, so right now we've only got three who will be key players," Ballard said. "The difference this year is in their morale. The girls are so well-connected and bonded. They have totally bought into team bonding and that will be a key to getting us through the hard games."
Senior midfielder Mary Kate Munz and senior defenders Sara Richards and Hannah Conte are the team's most experienced players. Munz had three goals and one assist last season.
Sophomore forward Remi Eades is expected to lead the offense after finishing with four goals and six assists last season. Junior Jenna Holder and freshman Emily Sloan should join Eades at forward.
Freshman Annie Alkhimovitch is taking over at goalkeeper for 2013 graduate Abby Hersey.
Freshman Alison Smitley will be at center midfielder along with Munz.
Freshman Morgan Marquez is expected to be a key player on defense along with Richards and Conte.
Junior Katy Karper and sophomore Teagan Pfister also are midfielders.
Gahanna lost a 2013 senior class that included three players who are playing collegiately in Megan Barrick (Cleveland State), Maggie Mayo (Duquesne) and Kari Weinland (Louisville). All three missed action last season with injuries.
Last year in the OCC-Ohio, Gahanna was third (5-2) behind Pickerington North (7-0) and Grove City (5-1-1).
"They are so excited for this season and they've seemed so excited to have me as their coach," Ballard said. "I think our back line is going to be strong. Their ability to work together is going to be key."