Gahanna Lincoln Roundup: Lions boys volleyball team primed to make postseason run
As it prepared to follow up a 2019 season that proved to be one of the best in program history, the Gahanna Lincoln boys volleyball team expected to build a mostly new lineup around a pair of returnees last spring.
The Lions found themselves in the same situation heading into this season after the 2020 schedule was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, but even that hasn’t slowed them down.
They figure to be one of the favorites to battle for a berth in the Division I state tournament over the coming weeks.
After losing its first two matches, Gahanna was 18-2 overall after beating Westerville South 25-8, 25-4, 25-7 on May 6 and before playing St. Charles on May 14.
The regional tournament drawing was May 16 and the postseason begins May 21.
“Really, I didn’t know what to expect from this season since we didn’t have anything last year, but I’m really proud of what we’ve created out of this team,” senior setter Logan Burrell said. “We’ve jelled. … We just need to keep playing hard. The teams we’re going to play (in the postseason) are going to be better than the ones we’ve played and we have to have a new mentality that we have to go out and earn it.”
Gahanna, which improved from 15-7 in 2018 to go 22-4 and reach a regional semifinal in 2019, won the OCC-Ohio Division title at 14-0 after finishing with the same league record two years ago.
Burrell, who plays right-side hitter for his club team, returned at setter after filling that role in 2019.
The only other key returnee from that team is senior right-side hitter McCord Riegler, who leads the Lions in kills.
Seniors Jackson Duebner and Connor Tilton have been the leading outside hitters, with senior Jason Raymond and junior A’me Baccus at middle hitter and senior Mitchell Ledbetter at defensive specialist.
“We dropped our first two and won (our next 18),” coach Mike Sage said. “I knew we’d be good, but honestly, I didn’t know we’d be playing as well as we’re playing. The record isn’t really surprising, but the way we’re doing it has been amazing. We’ve won most of our matches in three (sets) and we’ve played some pretty good competition.
“We serve very aggressively, which also leads to a bunch of errors, but offensively we can hit at any position, so at any given time we have four hitters ready to go.”
The Lions were state runners-up in 1991 and will need to go deep into the postseason to approach the program record of 24 wins they posted that season.
Being a part of a program that has annual expectations is something Burrell has enjoyed.
“Me and McCord were really the only returning varsity players, so we’ve taken on a leadership role on this team,” said Burrell, who is planning to play club volleyball for Ohio State. “I feel like we’ve been expected to win OCCs every year I’ve played here, so we’re just playing hard. It’s like we’ve got a target on our heads. … It feels like if we play our game, we don’t have to worry about what’s on the other side of the net.”
Boys track team
The boys track and field team will conclude competition in the Division I, district 2 meet May 22 at Hilliard Darby. The top four in each event advance to the regional May 26 and 28 at Pickerington North.
As his team headed into the postseason, coach Shawn Johnston was optimistic about the growth of a sprint corps that has included senior Ron Blackman, junior Tristin Cook-Fisher and sophomores Maxwell Cummings, Drew Pizzico and Romearo Wells.
In the 100 meters and 200, Blackman, Cook-Fisher and Cummings all have performed well.
“I felt good going into this spring for track because it was my first time getting out there on the track since COVID canceled the season last year,” Blackman said. “We pushed each other until we got to a point where we knew we could be great. After losing last season, all I could think about was just trying to get better for (this) season. I didn’t want to be lazy, so I kept conditioning and focusing on what’s coming next. This season has been a great one in my opinion.”
Sophomore A.J. Eggleston, whose best event is the 800, and senior Mondra Curry, who provides depth in the sprints and is the team’s top long jumper, are others who were hoping to make their mark in the postseason.
“I was able to go over (21 feet in the long jump), so I’m hoping to keep improving on that,” said Curry, who has committed to Findlay. “It’s meant the world, especially with (losing) last year. That really hurt, but it feels great to be able to compete again.”
Boys lacrosse team
picks up first win
The boys lacrosse team earned its first victory under first-year coach Collin Blaney when it beat Newark 5-3 on May 4.
That came one day after the Lions had their closest loss up to that point, a 10-6 defeat at Johnstown.
After losing 14-1 to Westerville South on May 7 and 18-8 to Westerville Central on May 12, Gahanna was 1-14 overall and finished 1-4 in the OCC-Ohio.
“We really wish we could have (the Johnstown game) back, but with the Newark game, it was nice to get some sort of gratification,” Blaney said. “The season’s obviously not going how we wanted it to, but we’ve really been growing every practice and we all understand the big picture of where we’re heading into the next couple years.”
Against Newark, junior midfielder Caleb Mason scored two goals and junior attacker Brendan Ross also had a key goal, according to Blaney.
Gahanna was seeded 16th for the 19-team Division I, Region 3 tournament and opened May 18 at third-seeded St. Charles, with the winner to face seventh-seeded Hilliard Davidson or eighth-seeded Pickerington North on May 21 at the home field of the better seed.
“Really just from top to bottom, we’ve been seeing a lot of improvement in every position group,” Blaney said. “Amazingly with the season going how it’s been, we’re still having great buy-in. I’m proud of where the team is going.”