The Gahanna Lincoln High School boys volleyball team has two major differences compared to last season, including height.

The Gahanna Lincoln High School boys volleyball team has two major differences compared to last season, including height.

"We're not going to overwhelm anyone with our size," said ninth-year coach Mike Sage, whose team opens Saturday, March 24, at West Chester Lakota West. "For the first time in a while, we're not real big compared to the other teams in our league; we're a small team now."

That isn't to say the Lions, who finished 18-8 overall a year ago and came within one victory of reaching the Division I state tournament, won't remain competitive in the OCC-Capital Division. They went 7-3 in the league last season to place second, behind Mount Vernon (10-0) and ahead of Pickerington North (6-4), Hilliard Bradley (5-5), Delaware (2-8) and Pickerington Central (0-10).

Gahanna, which lost 6-foot-8 Lance Wiles to graduation in addition to four other players, defeated Westerville Central 25-21, 25-18, 21-25, 25-21 and beat Westerville North 25-21, 26-28, 25-22, 25-21 in the first two rounds of the tournament before losing to Hilliard Darby 25-17, 25-18, 21-25, 25-18 in an East Region final.

Mount Vernon (Division I) and Bradley (Division II) also advanced to a regional final.

Wiles was named OCC-Capital Player of the Year and first-team all-region.

Junior Austin Washburn, who is 6-3, will take his spot at middle hitter. Classmate Josh Geary, who also is 6-3, returns at setter.

The second major difference is that the Lions have switched from running a 6-2 offense to a 5-1 after setter Zach Tarifa moved out of the school district.

"Josh is one of our biggest kids, and that's a nice luxury to have at that position," said Sage, whose team opens league play Tuesday, March 27, at Mount Vernon. "He's one of our most athletic kids, and we want to keep him on the floor as much as possible.

"And Austin, he's a little more agile than Lance with very quick feet, so we'll be able to run a little faster offense and move the ball around."

Senior outside hitters Michael Tobin, who made honorable mention all-league, and Jonathan Harrison return as well. The 10-member senior class also features middle blocker Sergio Bruyako, outside hitters Cody Hoffman and T.J. Swanson, defensive specialists Trevor Coopersmith and Curtis Stephenson and libero Khoi Tran.

The other seniors are first-year players Dillon Wagoner and Danny Byas.

"We may not be real big, but we're very athletic and should still be a good defensive team," Sage said. "We want to make teams earn every point they score on us."

Last year's graduates also included 6-3 outside hitter Josh Gruenbaum, who made second-team all-league, and libero Jerry Vo, who made second-team all-league and all-region.

"Fortunately, we've been able to keep our numbers up," Sage said. "That's maybe a little surprising since this is the first year Gahanna's had pay-to-play (fees). We've got a nice sophomore class and eight freshmen coming up, too."