Natasha Ballard remembers being "an immature hothead" when she played soccer at Reynoldsburg, until the atmosphere provided by some of the families surrounding the program helped straighten her out.
That's why Ballard has done whatever she could the past few months to instill a similar family atmosphere during her first season as coach of the Gahanna Lincoln High School girls team.
"I got carded all of the time (on the field) and was just an awful sport when I was a player," said Ballard, a 2006 Reynoldsburg graduate. "No one ever thought I'd even go to college. I want to help (the Gahanna players) as people and not just as players. I had a really good group of parents involved when I was at Reynoldsburg."
Among the things Ballard did during the preseason to help create a tighter team was have the players participate in a high ropes course.
The team also had a mystery dinner in which each person played a character for an entire night.
"On varsity initiation night, she gave us all a character and it was sort of like the game 'Clue,'" senior midfielder Mary Kate Munz said. "Everybody dressed up in character and it was a fun experience. Mine was a person named 'Blondie' who was a has-been celebrity."
"We've done some really kind of corny stuff, but ... they really, really love each other," Ballard said.
The Lions were 4-5-2 overall and 4-0-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division before playing defending league champion Pickerington North on Oct. 1.
On Sept. 24, Gahanna beat Grove City 3-1 as sophomore midfielder Teagan Pfister had two goals and freshman midfielder Alison Smitley had one goal. The Greyhounds entered the matchup at 4-0 in the league.
While senior Sara Richards and freshman Morgan Marquez have led the defense, senior Erica Lampert also has taken on a key role in the back. Senior defender Hannah Conte has been battling a knee issue.
The Division I district tournament draw is Sunday, Oct. 6.
"I think they feed off of my energy," Ballard said. "I'm always high-fiving them and hugging them and they feed off of that."
Football team wins 2nd consecutive game
A 20-13 win over Groveport on Sept. 20 gave the football team's defense another shot of confidence after a rough start to the season.
The Lions gave up more points in a game than in any other during coach John Snoad's five-plus seasons when they lost to Huber Heights Wayne 62-28 on Aug. 30, and they allowed an average of 42.7 points during a 0-3 start.
Gahanna followed the win over Groveport by defeating Newark 48-10 on Sept. 27.
The Lions take records of 2-3 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Ohio into their game Friday, Oct. 4, against visiting Reynoldsburg.
The Raiders fell to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the league after losing to Pickerington Central 28-17 on Sept. 27.
"When everything is flowing, no one can get a pass off against us. We've got a great secondary and we can (stop) the run," said senior Adam Davis, who has split time between defensive end and outside linebacker. "Our first three losses were pretty sad but (the Groveport win) helped us."
Against Newark, sophomore quarterback Mason Blancett completed 16 of 20 passes for 169 yards and three touchdowns, Vasean Davis had 113 yards and four touchdowns rushing and Tank Davis added seven catches for 68 yards and one score.
Boys soccer team making progress
The boys soccer team appears to be getting some of its offensive issues worked out as the regular season nears its close.
The fact that the Lions hadn't scored in four games this season hasn't hindered one of their biggest goals entering their game Oct. 1 against Pickerington North.
Gahanna, which has won nine consecutive OCC-Ohio championships, was 7-1-4 overall and 5-0 in the league before playing the Panthers. The Lions close the league schedule Tuesday, Oct. 8, at Pickerington Central.
Pickerington North was 4-0-1 in the league entering its matchup with Gahanna.
The Lions got a goal from Chad Barrick with 12 minutes, 2 seconds left in the first half and another score 20 seconds into the second half by Jacob Johnson to beat Grove City 2-0 on Sept. 24. The Greyhounds were 4-0 in the league entering the matchup.
"We're making progress," coach Todd Keenan said. "We struggle creating opportunities. (We moved) Chad Barrick from center back to striker and moved Jaden (Lunger to defender) and we'll see how that's going to look.
"Christian Grimme has been doing really well (at goalkeeper) and Eric Batke has done a great job in the right back position. It's not a glory spot, but I've gotten several compliments from other coaches about him."