Alisa Franklin is excited to be back on the sideline as a head varsity girls volleyball coach this fall.
A 2005 Westerville North High School graduate whose maiden name was Burdette, Franklin coached her alma mater from 2002-07 before stepping down to pursue a master's degree.
She has coached at the club level since leaving North and served as an assistant coach at Watterson last year.
This fall, Franklin is directing a Gahanna Lincoln program that lost seven players from a year ago to graduation and went through two coaching changes during the offseason. She had planned to be an assistant under Danny Irving, who was hired as coach last winter to replace Scot Holmes, who resigned after six seasons.
However, Franklin ended up replacing Irving in late June.
Last season, the Lions finished 17-7 overall, placed second in the OCC-Ohio Division and reached a Division I district final, where they lost to Westerville Central 25-18, 25-23, 25-20.
Gahanna opened Aug. 21 by beating Dublin Jerome 22-25, 25-16, 25-16, 26-20 but lost two matches Aug. 24, falling to Westerville Central 21-25, 25-13, 25-20 and Olentangy Liberty 25-20, 25-15.
"I feel like it's been a pretty good transition since I took over at the end of June," Franklin said. "We've been able to get a lot done in a short amount of time. (The players) have some pretty lofty goals."
Back to lead the Lions are seniors Amy Bott (setter), Aleese Butler (middle hitter), Kailyn McComb (outside hitter), Katy Noel (defensive specialist), Laryn O'Donnell (libero) and Morgan Wrona (outside hitter).
McComb was named honorable mention all-league last year as Gahanna went 11-3 to finish behind Pickerington North (14-0), but she is out indefinitely with a torn labrum.
Also looking to contribute are senior Olivia Wunderlin (defensive specialist), juniors Melissa Martin (setter), Alaina Monroe (outside hitter), Madison Mundy (outside hitter/right-side hitter), Brittany Reynolds (right-side hitter) and Ciara Williams (middle hitter) and sophomore Diana Shamroski (right-side hitter/outside hitter).
Gahanna lost a seven-member senior class that included Kelly Shannon, a middle hitter who is playing for Clarion University after making first-team all-district last fall.
"I'm really excited about our size," said Franklin, who compiled a 59-83 record and won a district title in 2003 in six seasons at North. "This might be one of the most athletic teams I've coached."
Boys cross country coach likes depth
The boys cross country program also has a new coach.
Ryan Beck, who has served as an assistant coach with the girls track and field team the last two years after previously assisting the Worthington Kilbourne cross country team, replaced Larry Schwade during the offseason and has a group of experienced runners to work with.
Schwade retired after leading the Lions for 25 seasons and having been involved with the program the past 35 years.
"We regularly had 15 to 20 guys running this summer and we've been doing some weightlifting," Beck said. "It's a pretty deep group. I think we've got some talent and speed at the front end."
Leading the way are seniors Chris Blakely, Jonathan Chang and John Fife, juniors Matt Ridinger, J.P. Salopek and Kieffer Whiteman and sophomore Aaron Schaller.
Also on the team are seniors Forrest Fluharty and Connor Roll, junior Christian Wengerter and freshman Andrew Ray.
Last season, Gahanna placed fourth (82) in the OCC-Ohio meet behind champion Pickerington North (47) and finished fifth (149) in the 18-team Division I, district 3 meet at Watkins Memorial behind champion Dublin Jerome (51).
In the 16-team regional meet at Pickerington North, Gahanna finished 12th (294) behind champion Westerville North (79) as 2013 graduate Trent Champlin placed 43rd (17 minutes, 7.02 seconds) to lead the Lions.
Girls cross country returns strong corps
Despite not having any seniors among his key runners, girls cross country coach Ernie Ziegler believes a strong group of juniors will lead his team to success.
Juniors Kelsey Sandlin and Rylee Tanner and sophomores Kelsey Thompson and Kearstin Turner are back from last season, when Gahanna won its second consecutive OCC-Ohio championship.
Another returnee with experience is junior Heather Kincaid.
Others expected to contribute include junior Allison Matney and freshmen Ivy McKee and Ally Wharton.
"We've got a good group of girls that are very close and very coachable," Ziegler said. "It's a group that wants to win. The top group is really close and they've bought into what we're doing."
Last season, Sandlin placed fifth (20:13.1) in the OCC-Ohio meet, as the Lions won their second consecutive league title by scoring 40 points. Pickerington North (59) finished second.
Sandlin followed with a sixth-place finish (20:09.57) to lead Gahanna in the 15-team district 2 meet. The Lions placed third (95) behind Dublin Coffman (31) and Hilliard Bradley (86) and went on to finish seventh (201) in the 16-team regional behind champion Hilliard Davidson (50).
"Expectations are high," Ziegler said. "We'll be very disappointed if we don't repeat as OCC champions. I think our girls are looking to really shoot for the moon and qualify for state."