Throughout a career that has included 10 district championships and more than 300 victories coaching boys and girls soccer, Gahanna Lincoln High School girls coach Bob McGee always has put a heavy emphasis on defense.
Thanks to the talent of players such as juniors Taylor Molli and Peyton Marquez and sophomore Thalia Johnson, that concept has produced a winning formula again this season, as the Lions gave up just six goals over their first 10 games.
Sophomore Carli Smith and freshmen Meredith Clay, Gracie Hensley and Ryanne Michel also are contributing on defense in front of senior J.J. Lampert and sophomore Alyssa Redmond, who have split time in goal.
"We've grown as a team and our intensity as a whole has increased tremendously," Molli said. "I do believe we'll be a team that doesn't stop growing as the season goes forth. Our defense this fall is strong. We work together in a way where it just naturally clicks. A big part of it is our communication and how well we handle it."
Molli, a Xavier commit who has played both defensive midfielder and center back, has been a key player since her freshman season.
Marquez, who was a key player as a freshman but was out last season with an injury, gradually has become a bigger part of the defense as the season has progressed.
Gahanna was 5-1-4 overall and 1-0-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division after tying Pickerington North at 1 on Sept. 20 and before playing Grove City on Sept. 25.
Last season, the Lions finished second (3-0-2) in the league behind North (4-0-1) while Grove City was third (3-1-1).
Gahanna began league action with a 3-0 win Sept. 13 over Reynoldsburg.
The Lions opened with a 1-0 loss to Canal Winchester on Aug. 17 but shut out five of their next eight opponents, including playing Dublin Coffman to a scoreless tie Sept. 18.
"It's still playing from the back to the front," McGee said. "Our defense is going to be our character, so we try to have outstanding defense in the back."
In a 3-1 win over Upper Arlington on Sept. 15, sophomores Natalie Stewart and Alexei Whittaker and freshman Katie Farina each scored one goal.
Junior Katie Stafford, an Akron commit, also has been a key leader offensively.
"We are getting better," McGee said. "Our defense is starting to shore up. We have a lot of young players who are starting to figure it out. We're making gradual improvements, which is good, and they've all got a positive attitude. We're playing a lot of kids, so we're getting team growth. Everyone has to play to increase our depth. I think we're starting to see team leadership, and that's one thing that has to grow."
Boys soccer coach proud of team's effort
The boys soccer team has been working on creating "winning moments," as coach Matt Kovach calls it.
After going winless over their first five games, the Lions went 3-0-2 over the next five.
They were 3-4-4 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Ohio after losing 2-0 to Pickerington North on Sept. 20 and before playing Grove City on Sept. 25.
On Sept. 18 at Westerville North, Gahanna trailed 2-1 and 3-2 but got a game-tying goal from Tareeq Chambers with less than two minutes remaining.
"I'm really proud of our fight," Kovach said. "If we're being perfectly honest that wasn't our best game (against Westerville North). They've been struggling, but that's a good team. To salvage a tie at the end, I hate to say we'll take it, but we'll take it.
"There have been moments where we've played really, really good soccer and we've been feeling like we're progressing forward and doing the things we want to do so that come conference play and tournament time, we can be where we want to be."
Chambers had six of the Lions' first 16 goals.
Senior outside back Logan McDonald has been leading a defense that also includes seniors Brian Rapp and Nick Stanisovski and junior Dominic Spradlin, with junior Payton Smith in goal.
"We just need to talk more, especially in the back four," McDonald said. "Especially on set pieces, that was one of our main problems (against Westerville North).
"I've played every position on the field. I started out being a utility player, but lately I've been at outside back and doing pretty well at it."
Tennis team preps for postseason
The girls tennis team has a regular-season match Thursday, Sept. 27, at home against Watkins Memorial and begins the postseason with a Division I sectional Oct. 4 and 6.
After beating Big Walnut 3-2 on Sept. 19, losing 4-1 to Dublin Jerome on Sept. 20 and before playing Hilliard Davidson on Sept. 25 and Hilliard Darby on Sept. 26, the Lions were 5-8 overall.
Gahanna finished 2-3 in the OCC-Ohio as Pickerington North went 5-0 to win the title.
In a 3-2 win over Big Walnut on Sept. 19, freshman Caroline Mattox won at second singles, senior Grace Kempf won at third singles and the team of freshmen Harshi Vathyam and Sophie Graham won at second doubles.
Another freshman, Aubrey Thomas, has been playing first singles.
Below are the coming schedules for the Gahanna Lincoln cross country, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 29 -- Erin Nance Fall Distance Classic at London Country Club
Sept. 27 -- Granville at Little Turtle
Sept. 29 -- Pickerington Central Fall Invitational at Turnberry
Oct. 2 -- Division I sectional at Turnberry. The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to the district tournament Oct. 9 at Apple Valley.
Oct. 2 -- Division I sectional at Mentel Memorial. The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to the district tournament Oct. 9 at Cooks Creek.
Sept. 29 -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange
*Oct. 2 -- At Lancaster
Sept. 29 -- Home vs. Watterson
*Oct. 2 -- Home vs. Lancaster
Sept. 27 -- Home vs. Watkins Mem-orial
*Sept. 27 -- Home vs. Reynoldsburg. The Lions beat the Raiders 25-21, 25-8, 25-14 on Sept. 4.
Sept. 29 -- At Big Walnut with Hilliard Davidson
*Oct. 2 -- At Pickerington North. The Lions beat the Panthers 26-24, 27-25, 28-26 on Sept. 6.