Making its first state tournament appearance since 1991 last season provided long-term benefits for the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys volleyball program.

Making its first state tournament appearance since 1991 last season provided long-term benefits for the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys volleyball program.

The Lions, according to 11th-year coach Mike Sage, are focused on building on that finish this spring.

"The boys made a conscious effort to be in open gyms," he said. "We saw a lot better participation in the offseason than in the past."

Gahanna was 2-3 overall and 0-1 in the OCC-Capital Division before playing Olentangy on April 8. The Lions lost their league opener to Mount Vernon 25-16, 25-22, 25-23 on April 1.

A year ago, the Lions went 18-10 overall and placed second (8-2) in the league behind Mount Vernon (9-1) after winning the league in 2012.

Gahanna doesn't have as much height as it did a year ago, according to Sage, but he believes a group of players led by seniors Seth Murphy (setter) and Stephen Arrey (middle hitter) and junior Nathan Matthews (outside hitter) should compensate with athleticism and scrappiness.

Junior Logan Washburn, who will play outside hitter and middle hitter, also should be a key player.

The other seniors are Matthew Beehler (libero), Michael Buchsieb (defensive specialist), Aaron Byas (outside hitter), Korey Comtess (right-side hitter) and Zach Muncy (defensive specialist).

Junior Gino Cabiness (middle hitter) and sophomore Elijah Sweet (setter) also are looking to contribute.

The Lions lost four players to graduation, including second-team all-state selection Josh Geary (setter) and honorable mention all-state player Austin Washburn (outside hitter), who is Logan's brother.

Gahanna, which lost in a regional final in 2012, advanced last year to a Division I state quarterfinal, where it lost to Beavercreek 25-18, 25-23, 25-16.

"If we can pass consistently, we can be strong offensively," Sage said.

"The boys have realized that with our athleticism and if we can control our side of the net, we can compete with (anybody). So far, I've seen everybody willing to make sacrifices."

Boys tennis teamhas new look

During coach Chris Schwinnen's first four seasons as boys tennis coach, the decision of who would play first singles was anticlimactic.

Jesse Shivener was clearly the Lions' No. 1 player in 2010 and during his senior season in 2011, and 2013 graduate Canyon Teague was the obvious choice each of the past two years.

Things aren't as clear-cut this spring, but that doesn't mean Gahanna is expecting a down season.

"This year is going to be extremely different," said Schwinnen, whose team was 13-3 overall a year ago.

"We had Jesse Shivener who was a dominant No. 1 and then we had Canyon, so we've had a very powerful No. 1. We're not going to have a state-qualifier type at No. 1 this year, but the guys we have back have been working hard. We're looking for a good season."

The Lions opened April 2 by beating Westerville Central 4-1. Their OCC-Ohio opener April 3 against Grove City was postponed because of bad weather, as was a match April 7 against Hilliard Bradley.

Seniors Zach Horn and Stefn Sandberg, junior Eric Chen and sophomore Chris Kusovski all could see time at singles.

Seniors Micah Heinzelman and Justin Solze and freshman Jake Selker are others looking to contribute.

The Lions lost their top two singles players to graduation in Teague and Aaron Thomas, while 2013 graduate John Spain was a contributor at doubles.

Gahanna placed second in the league and had the first-singles champion in the league tournament in Teague, who went on to win a sectional title, place second at district and take fourth at state.

Also in the league tournament, Chen took third at third singles, Kusovski and Spain were runners-up at first doubles and Sandberg and Horn took fourth at second doubles.

"Whoever we have at first singles is probably going to be about .500, then we'll be a little better than .500 at second singles and whoever plays third singles and first doubles might only have five or six losses," Schwinnen said. "But they all want to be at that No. 1 singles spot."