Coming off a .500 season and then splitting its first four matches this year prompted some soul-searching by the Gahanna Lincoln girls volleyball team.
The Lions' turnaround since that time took on new meaning when they traveled to Lancaster on Oct. 3 without their full complement of players and beat the Golden Gales 16-25, 27-25, 25-27, 25-17, 15-13 to wrap up the outright OCC-Ohio Division title.
"We started off a little rocky there at the beginning of the season and we had a lot of talks with the girls and said if you want to leave a legacy, we've got to step it up a notch and come to practice with a purpose, be intentional with everything we're doing, and they've really taken that," coach Molly Martin said. "We have hard Monday practices, we have a Wednesday practice where we call it 'Hype Wednesday' and we've done a lot of film on Fridays. The girls putting down on paper what they see on film has really helped us this year."
The Lions, who went 11-11 overall and settled for third in the league last season at 7-3, beat Lancaster despite being without junior outside hitter Kortney Grimm because of illness.
Junior middle hitter Emily Schweitzer's return from a hamstring injury after missing the previous two matches helped, but sophomore setter Kendall White got banged up during the match and missed much of the second set before returning.
Gahanna was 15-4 overall before playing DeSales on Oct. 7.
"We faced a lot of adversity and to be honest they left it all out there," Martin said. "They put their heart and soul out there 110 percent. At times it was not pretty at all and sometimes it was not how we're capable of performing, but we just had a lot of different girls stepping up when we needed it."
Junior right-side hitter Sophia Hill got the winning kill against Lancaster after going through ups and downs earlier in the match, according to Martin. Senior outside hitter Lexi Tatum and senior middle hitter Anna Nie also were among the standouts in the match.
Gahanna is 9-0 in the OCC-Ohio heading into its regular-season finale Thursday, Oct. 10, at home against Pickerington Central.
"We really pushed through," Tatum said. "It feel like it's such a big accomplishment (to win the league title) with all the new people we've worked in all season. Last year we were 11-11 and third in the conference, so to win it and go undefeated this season would be crazy.
"We've just been staying aggressive the whole time. I was trying to mix up the shots so it wasn't as predictable, just playing smarter rather than putting power on it. I really feel we can go far (in the postseason) if we continue to do what we're doing."
Boys golf team again moves on to district
For the third consecutive season, the boys golf team advanced to the Division I district tournament.
The Lions competed at district Oct. 8 at Apple Valley, where the top two teams and top two individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state Oct. 18 and 19 on Ohio State's Scarlet Course.
On Oct. 2 in a sectional at Turnberry, Gahanna shot 312 to earn the fourth and final district-qualifying berth as Pickerington North (306) was first.
Junior Max Hahn shot 75 to tie for third behind co-medalists Bryce Reed of Olentangy Berlin and Elijah Hale of North (both 74).
Also competing for the Lions were senior Dylan Errington (tied for sixth, 76), junior Mitchell Soma (tied for eighth, 77) and sophomores Evan Henry (tied for 28th, 84) and Kyle Lark (tied for 45th, 91).
Last season, Gahanna shot 304 in the Turnberry sectional to miss winning the title by one stroke and then shot 317 at district to finish fourth and miss advancing to state by eight strokes. Errington, Hahn and Soma were key players last season as well.
Most of tennis lineup to return
Of the seven competitors the girls tennis team had in a Division I sectional Oct. 3 at Hilliard Bradley, the only senior was Madi Herrmann.
Herrmann and sophomore Caroline Mattox, who were the fourth-seeded doubles team, had a first-round bye and won their second-round match before losing to Westerville Central's Madison Lane and Vivian Baker 6-3, 6-4 in a quarterfinal.
Also in doubles, sophomore Sophie Graham and freshman Alana Amer lost 6-2, 6-0 in the second round to third-seeded Abby Walker and Ria Singhal of Dublin Coffman.
In singles, freshman Mary Grace Halliday lost to Central's Sidney Choo 6-3, 6-0 in the first round, freshman Frankie Nuss lost to Central's Levi Burks 6-4, 6-4 in the second round and sophomore Aubrey Thomas fell to Coffman's Dasha Chistyakova 6-2, 6-0 in a quarterfinal.
The sectional ended a season in which the Lions went 12-8 overall and 3-2 in the OCC-Ohio. Gahanna put together a midseason four-match winning streak after losing four of its first five.
Girls golfers turn in solid season
The girls golf team's season ended with a sixth-place finish (378) in an 11-team Division I sectional Oct. 2 at Blacklick Woods as the top three teams advanced to district.
Junior Elise Wenz led the Lions with an 89, sophomore Molly Cepek shot 95 and senior Alexis Buck, sophomore Taylor Patterson and freshman Cee Cee Holmes all shot 97.
That completed a season in which the Lions finished third (13-7) in the OCC-Ohio behind Grove City (18-2) and Pickerington North (16-4).
Wenz averaged 82.7 in the league play to earn first-team all-league honors. Cepek averaged 93 and Patterson averaged 94 to both make second-team all-league and Holmes averaged 99 to earn honorable mention all-league.
The team's other senior was Alexis Harris, who averaged 100 during the first two rounds of the four-round league tournament.
Below are the coming schedules for the Gahanna Lincoln cross country, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball teams:
Oct. 12 -- OCC-Ohio meet at Lancaster
*Oct. 10 -- At Pickerington Central
Oct. 15 -- At 17th-seeded Grove City in first round of Division I district tournament. The Lions are seeded 24th.
Oct. 12 -- At Dublin Coffman
Oct. 16 -- Home vs. 39th-seeded Groveport in first round of Division I district tournament. The Lions are seeded 16th.
*Oct. 10 -- Home vs. Pickerington Central. The Lions beat the Tigers 25-17, 25-16, 25-12 on Sept. 17.
Oct. 16 -- Home vs. 23rd-seeded Dublin Jerome or 25th-seeded Delaware in second round of Division I district tournament. The Lions are seeded 10th.