After finishing a program-best sixth at the 2017 Division I state tournament, the Gahanna Lincoln High School girls bowling team became the first central Ohio squad to deliver a state championship last winter.

The boys team is coming off a season in which it fell one spot shy of making its first state tournament appearance since 2011.

Keeping the program at its peak is the primary goal this season for both teams, which have new coaches after Kelly Ferguson stepped down after six seasons.

Yvonne Quiero, who was an assistant last season, is now the girls coach, while Cris Ferrante officially is the boys coach after unofficially serving in that role last season.

"It's been going great," Quiero said. "The girls are very excited going into the season. They're looking forward to starting some new things this year and have got a lot to look forward to."

The girls team, which won the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-A Division but now are competing in the COHSBC-B, are 3-0 overall and in the league. The Lions have a match to reschedule against Hilliard Bradley that originally was slated for Dec. 11.

Senior Taylor Burns and sophomore Lilu Smith were key members of last year's team. At state during qualifying play, 2018 graduate Briann McKnight finished 26th with a 580 three-game series, Burns was 31st (574), senior Shannon Gonzales was 36th (565), Smith was 56th (520) and 2018 graduate Delaney Ferguson tied for 63rd (507). McKnight is now competing for Wright State.

Through three matches, Smith had a 195.8 average and Burns was averaging 177.3 as both ranked among the top 10 in the COHSBC.

Other key players have included juniors Jalynn Johnson and Aubree Packer, sophomore Becky Gonzales and freshmen Lindzi Oakman and Victoria Richardson.

"(Smith is) rolling pretty well," Quiero said. "Taylor has been doing well. Packer is a junior who bowled with us last year. They've all been working well as a team."

The boys team also is 3-0 overall and in the league.

Junior Nathan Minzler and sophomores Hunter McKnight and DeAndre Quiero are the top returnees.

Minzler finished 15th in the COHSBC with a 204.1 average last season and was leading the Lions with a 196.2 average through nine games this season.

Seniors Jaylen Clark and Spencer Watson, sophomore Jimmy Walther and freshmen Kevin Foit and Eddy Pax also are on the team.

Beginning in January, Ferrante is expecting senior Dalton Carraro and sophomore Hunter Blankenship also to be among the team's top bowlers.

"We finished fourth in the district and we started three freshmen, a sophomore and (2018 graduate) Sal (Ferrante), my son," Ferrante said. "Now those freshmen are all sophomores, and we've got a junior and a couple seniors. Hunter Blankenship and Dalton Carraro will be back eligible in January. We're going to be very strong."

Boys basketball team showing grit

The boys basketball team visits Grove City on Friday, Dec. 21, and closes the 2018 portion of its schedule Dec. 29 at Zanesville.

The Lions were 3-2 overall before playing Westerville South on Dec. 17 and fell to 0-2 in the OCC-Ohio Division with an 85-77 loss to Pickerington North on Dec. 14.

After losing 58-53 to Reynoldsburg on Dec. 7 in its league opener, Gahanna bounced back to beat Logan 80-66 on Dec. 8 as Elijah Thomas made six 3-pointers and totaled 29 points and Nate Staib scored 17.

"We don't quit fighting," coach Tony Staib said. "When (the other team) makes runs, we don't back down from anyone. We've been working really hard in practice and guys have been really coming together. We only have one senior, but we're really coming together as a team and have great chemistry."

Gahanna led Reynoldsburg 20-11 after one quarter but was outscored 17-3 in the second period by the Raiders, who won a Division I district title last season.

According to coach Staib, who is Nate's father, players such as junior Zane Leitwein and freshman Sean Jones have filled key roles early on.

"I'm very pleased with the way we responded after a tough loss (to Reynoldsburg)," coach Staib said. "The way we play, we shuffle in guys and every night it's somebody else's turn. Zane is one of those guys who can do a little bit of everything, and every game we've had this year, he's always had his fingerprint on it. He shoots the ball really well and he's sort of that guy on the floor that you forget about that can hurt you."

Against North, Thomas had 27 points and Jones scored 20.

Wrestlers prep for season's second half

The wrestling team will complete the 2018 portion of its schedule Dec. 27 with the Winter Warhawk Classic at Westerville Central.

The Lions then will begin OCC-Ohio action Jan. 10 at home against Pickerington North and Pickerington Central.

Gahanna finished 16th (83 points) in the 30-team Liberty Classic held Dec. 14 and 15 at Olentangy Liberty behind champion Macedonia Nordonia (174.5).

Cristian Salazar (113 pounds) was runner-up and Juan Porras (126) and Luke Garbark (182) both placed fifth.

The Lions finished seventh (119) in the 17-team Big Walnut Classic on Dec. 8 behind champion Dublin Coffman (288) as Salazar won the title at 113 and Charles Williams was runner-up at 120.

Eley named girls soccer coach

After serving as an assistant last season for the girls soccer team, Nick Eley was promoted Dec. 10 to head coach.

Eley replaces Bob McGee, who stepped down in November after completing his third season as coach.

A 2010 Pickerington Central graduate, Eley played for Capital and also has coached at the youth level and served as an assistant at Parma before joining Gahanna's staff.

"One of my short-term goals with the program is building a team atmosphere that's conducive to learning and bringing a tight-knit team together," Eley said. "You always want to win. But at the same time, I really want to be not only winning, but also teaching the different intangibles that people talk about to help them be successful outside of soccer.

"It definitely is a really good time to take over this program in my opinion. I'm definitely excited for the future here with Gahanna."

Under McGee, Gahanna went 40-6-11, won a Division I district title in 2016 and earned two OCC-Ohio championships. This fall, the Lions finished 10-3-5 overall and 4-0-1 in the OCC-Ohio to share the league title with Pickerington North.

"(Eley) has a very competitive drive while also understanding the importance of building relationships and making the experience enjoyable for the young ladies in our program," athletics director Dustin Cullen said. "We're very excited to have coach Eley take this step and we look forward to him providing long-term leadership to the program."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

Schedules

BOWLING

Dec. 1 -- Invitational State Kickoff at Columbus Square Bowling Palace

*Dec. 5 -- Groveport at Gahanna Lanes

*Dec. 6 -- Pickerington Central at Rule 3

Dec. 8 -- Holiday Baker Marathon at Columbus Square Bowling Palace

*Dec. 10 -- Thomas Worthington at Capri Lanes

Dec. 15 -- Raider Collegiate Challenge at Beaver-Vu Bowl

*Jan. 11 -- Hilliard Davidson at Gahanna Lanes

*Jan. 15 -- Pickerington North at Rule 3

*Jan. 18 -- Worthington Kilbourne at Gahanna Lanes

Jan. 19 -- Central District Preview at Columbus Square Bowling Palace

*Jan. 23 -- Marysville at Gahanna Lanes

*Jan. 25 -- Reynoldsburg at Gahanna Lanes

*Jan. 30 -- Hilliard Darby at Ten Pin Alley

*Feb. 4 -- Whitehall at Holiday Lanes

*Feb. 6 -- Lancaster at Gahanna Lanes

*Feb. 13 -- New Albany at Gahanna Lanes

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the Gahanna Lincoln boys basketball, girls basketball, hockey and swimming & diving teams:

BOYS BASKETBALL

*Dec. 21 -- At Grove City

GIRLS BASKETBALL

*Dec. 21 -- Home vs. Grove City

HOCKEY

*Dec. 20 -- Watterson at Chiller Easton

*Dec. 21 -- Columbus Academy at Chiller Easton

*Dec. 23 -- Olentangy Berlin at Chiller Easton

SWIMMING & DIVING

Dec. 21 -- Home vs. Canal Winchester

Dec. 22 -- At Upper Arlington

*League contest