The loss of eight bowlers from last season has not deterred the expectations for the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys bowling team. With a strong group of varsity bowlers ready to replace those lost, the Lions appear ready to achieve their goal of reaching the state tournament.

The loss of eight bowlers from last season has not deterred the expectations for the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys bowling team. With a strong group of varsity bowlers ready to replace those lost, the Lions appear ready to achieve their goal of reaching the state tournament.

Last season, Gahanna finished seventh (4,119) at the district tournament behind champion Maysville (4,324). The top three teams advanced to state. The Lions were able to compete in the district tournament by claiming the eighth and final qualifying spot at the sectional tournament with 3,909 pins to finish behind champion Whitehall (4,132).

This season, Gahanna is led by juniors Ryan Arras and Jacob Reed, as well as sophomore Chris Bucklad. Through three matches, Arras led Gahanna with a 224 average and a high game of 290. Bucklad had a 207 average and Reed had a 194 average.

Other bowlers on varsity include seniors Kevin Gery and Matt McQuirt, juniors Collin Beck and Brad Granville and sophomore Brian Rudd.

"We lose eight seniors from last year, but we do have seven guys returning," coach Bruce Zink said. "So there is some new blood on the team, but not new to the sport itself. I certainly think we'll make it to district and I think we have a good shot at making state. The way the guys have been progressing so far has been good."

"I know I've been practicing a lot over the summer as well as my teammates. Even though we had a lot of guys graduate there hasn't been a dip in talent," Arras said.

The OHSAA has realigned the Central District bowling divisions again. This season Gahanna will compete in the Central Ohio Conference-Red Division with Africentric, Briggs, Columbus South, Groveport, Marion-Franklin, Pickerington Central, Pickerington North, Teays Valley and Columbus West.

"I think we'll be one of the top teams in that division," Zink said. "We'll have a few challenges, but I think we have a very good chance of winning it."

Zink also expects to field a strong girls team as well, and so far that has been the case as the girls opened the season with a 2-1 record, mirroring the mark set by the boys.

Last season the girls finished 11th (3,101) at district behind champion Westerville Central (3,758). The Lions took the fifth of six qualifying spots at the sectional tournament with 3,360 pins to finish behind champion Westerville South (3,756).

Leading the girls team is senior Jennifer Nelson, juniors Lindsey May, Elizabeth Robinson and Chelsea Wright and sophomore Sarah Lebowitz. Lebowitz led the Lions with a 169 average through the first three matches.

Rounding out the varsity for the girls are junior Kaitlyn Robar and freshmen Kelsey Ferguson and Harmony Kirtos.

"The good thing about the girls is they listen well and have responded well to coaching and instruction," Zink said. "They're serious about their bowling, and I've seen a lot of improvement with them since we've started the season."

For Gahanna to reach its zenith, Zink said both the boys and girls teams will need to work on the same issues.

"The first thing they both need to work on is consistency," he said. "We need to make sure we're hitting our targets and making our spares. We also need to work on adjusting better to changing lane conditions."

"We could always get better at spare shooting as well as the mental aspect," Arras said. "You can never really master that. So we've been doing drills in practice shooting the 7-10 split. It's not the most fun, but it's necessary. It's helped us a lot."

Although there are a lot of new faces to the varsity teams, Zink remains confident in the Lions. It remains to be seen if that confidence will be rewarded in the postseason.

"The athletes in our program are very dedicated bowlers. They're committed to be the best they can be," Zink said.

"I knew we lost a lot of talent from last year, but I'm excited about this season. What I've noticed in our three matches so far is they've thrived under pressure, and that's why I'm so optimistic."