Gahanna Lincoln Roundup: Defense steps up for boys soccer squad

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Cooper Solomon of Gahanna Lincoln chases after the ball with Westerville North’s Alex Lowery during a 1-0 loss to the host Warriors on Aug. 21. Solomon, a senior center back, has been a key performer on defense for the Lions, who posted four shutouts in their first eight games.

Having lost 13 players after reaching a Division I district semifinal, the Gahanna Lincoln boys soccer team had holes to fill throughout the field heading into this season. 

Among the expected key players were seniors Harrason Ahn and Cooper Solomon, and they’ve lived up to expectations, albeit from an unexpected perspective. 

The Lions needed to fill both center back positions, which persuaded coach Matt Kovach to ask Ahn to move from forward and Solomon to move from center midfielder into those roles. 

“When we start putting our team together in the preseason, we always start the conversations with who is in the back line,” Kovach said. “We really needed to put our defensive unit back together after graduating all four of our backs from last season. We looked at players who not only had some experience there but also players who we believed could be anchors in the back for us. We started at center back and knew we not only wanted players who could handle the position but also players who had experience in varsity-level matches considering we didn’t have a preseason. We turned to two of our senior captains, Cooper Solomon and Harrason Ahn, and they’ve done an outstanding job.” 

Gahanna was 4-5-1 overall after losing 3-2 to Westerville South on Sept. 24 and is 1-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division. The Lions opened league play with a 6-0 win Sept. 15 over Westland but lost to New Albany 5-1 on Sept. 22. 

Gahanna posted four shutouts over its first eight games, including handing Hilliard Darby its first loss with a 2-0 decision Sept. 17. 

“We did not have the preseason to get everything put together so we lost a couple games early on, but we just upset an undefeated team (in Darby),” Ahn said. “I’m really proud of the effort that we’ve put together because we’re also a young and inexperienced team. 

“My sophomore year they needed a center back for the (junior varsity gold) team and that’s what I also have to do this year because we needed help on defense. Honestly it was hard the first couple games. I’m still getting used to it at the varsity level, but my teammates have definitely been making it easier. He told us that he just needed leaders back there and needed that experience back there.” 

Solomon has been happy to fill whatever role possible after being one of the first players off the bench early last season before becoming a starter late in the season. 

His father, Adam Solomon, played soccer for San Diego State. 

“(Ahn and I) have played together since our freshman year,” Solomon said. “I played center back for my club team. It’s insane to see how he’s adapted from being a forward scoring goals to being a center back where there are no opportunities to score goals. Our whole back line has never really played defense (much in the past).” 

Senior Phillip Fallon has moved from forward to also see time at center back, with junior A.J. Addison and sophomore Owen Onstad also contributing in the back. 

“Every day, every practice, every game, you want to feel like you’re not only progressing as a team but also coming together as a team and we’re definitely doing both those things,” Kovach said. “We want to carry that momentum into the second half of our season.” 

Volleyball team 

in title chase 

A 25-23, 25-23, 25-17 win over Grove City on Sept. 22 snapped a two-match losing skid for the girls volleyball team and also represented what first-year coach Ashanti Slone hopes is a “turning point.” 

The Lions were 7-4 overall before playing Hartley on Sept. 28. They are 4-1 in the OCC-Ohio heading into their match Thursday, Oct. 1, at Westland. 

“We had a couple tough matches early on with Watkins Memorial and Olentangy Orange (which Gahanna lost Aug. 31 and Sept. 8, respectively) and we’ve grown so much since then,” Slone said. “It’s all coming together.” 

The Lions, who are defending league champions, returned four seniors in Kelsey Cripe, Kortney Grimm, Emily Schweitzer and Alex VanHorssen, and all are playing key roles. 

Another senior, Hani Simpson, was a key defensive specialist at Fairborn before moving into the district. 

“We had Hani come in from Fairborn and she and our defensive specialists have been picking things up more,” Slone said. “It’s been more efficient. Hani was a six-rotation player (at Fairborn). She’s a little undersized but is a great defensive specialist.” 

Golf teams prep 

for postseason 

The boys and girls golf teams are preparing for the Division I postseason. 

The boys are tied for the 15th seed with Worthington Kilbourne and will compete in a sectional Tuesday, Oct. 6, at Turnberry. 

Teams seeded higher than the Lions at the site are Olentangy Liberty (No. 3), Pickerington Central (7), Pickerington North (10) and Dublin Coffman (12). The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advance to the district tournament Oct. 13 at Apple Valley. 

Seniors Mitchell Soma and Max Hahn, who averaged 76.0 and 76.75, respectively, in league play, and juniors Evan Henry and Kyle Lark have been the top players. Soma shot a program-record 67 on Aug. 12 at Hickory Hills. 

“We want to continue to grow as a group to build mental strength and learning from experience,” coach Judy Ratzenberger said. “Coach (Lori) Scott and I want our team to continue to resist the lure of focusing on expectations. Instead, we want all players focusing on a shot by shot mentality and playing in the moment, and finally, we’re working on finishing strong. These things will help us compete at sectionals and beyond.” 

The girls are seeded 12th and will open the postseason with a sectional Tuesday, Oct. 6, at Blacklick Woods. The only higher seeds at the site are No. 1 New Albany, No. 6 Grove City and No. 7 Olentangy, but just the top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Oct. 13 at New Albany Links. 

Senior Elise Wenz averaged 86 in OCC-Ohio action to lead the way. Junior Molly Cepek and sophomore Cee Cee Holmes both averaged 91 in the league. 

julrey@thisweeknews.com 

@UlreyThisWeek