The Central Ohio landscape surrounding Gahanna Lincoln’s women’s soccer team has changed with regularity over the past few seasons.
The Lions had their best season in 2016 when they lost 1-0 to Pickerington North in a Division I regional final to finish 18-1-2.
It was Olentangy Liberty who represented the region in a state semi-final in 2017, and Watterson (2018), Dublin Coffman (2019), Olentangy (2020) and New Albany (2021) also won titles regional.
There have been a few memorable moments during that streak for the Lions, including district runners-up in 2017 and 2019, but they entered this fall after a 3-10-5 season.
Gahanna ended up taking a big step forward under freshman coach Dave Merrick and six seniors, finishing 10-7-2 overall and winning the fourth league championship in program history.
“At the start of the year, coming together and learning from each other, we weren’t quite sure what kind of season we would have, but we knew what they had done in the past,” Merrick said. “We had a big group of seniors and they wanted to make a change, and they believed in what we were doing. They started to become builders.
One of the steps for the Lions to become one of the region’s rebounding teams came when they secured a 1-0 victory on Sept. 20 over New Albany, which went on to win a district title.
Although Gahanna closed out the regular season with a 3-1 loss to North on October 17, it was the No. 12 seed for the district tournament and won its first two postseason games before s losing 3-0 to fourth-seeded Dublin Coffman in a district semi-final on October 26.
It was the Lions’ first 10-win season since 2018 when they went 10-3-5 and also lost in the district semi-finals but won a share of the division title. OCC-Ohio.
This fall, Gahanna finished 4-1 in the league to tie New Albany and North for the championship.
“Our new coach has been amazing and won’t let us settle for less,” said senior centre-back Mia Sammons. “There is also the bond that unites our team. There are a lot of other great seniors and I feel like we’ve had a lot of great leaders this year who just wanted to work hard, no drama or strings attached. We deserve everything we got.
According to Sammons and junior left-back Kya Jordan, communication issues played a role in the Lions’ struggles in 2021.
“We had individual talent, but we just didn’t work together,” Jordan said. “(This season was) awesome. Last year was a bit tough, especially going to school and everyone was laughing at you because we only won three games. Then this year winning 10 matches makes me excited for next year because we have a lot of the same girls coming back.
Central midfielder Jaeda Whittaker, defender Julia Sammons, goalkeeper Emily Marzetz and strikers Daelyn Schepman and Sydney Errington were all key contributors as seniors.
Whittaker had six goals and two assists, Schepman had four goals and three assists, and Marzetz made 122 saves while allowing 28 goals.
In addition to Jordan, the Lions had a group of junior regulars that included Aubrey Hack (forward), Emma Groves (defensive midfielder), Kylie Lewis (left back) and Lauren Thomas (defensive midfielder).
Sophomores Maegan Chrysler (forward) and Claire Highland (center back) and rookie Megan Foulke (left back) were also key contributors.
“It’s not easy in the Central District, but I think their confidence has gone up,” Merrick said. “We know the process is not microwaveable and it takes time, but this set of seniors set a standard that we can build on in the future.
“The seniors have all contributed well for us this year. Now the challenge will be that they started a landmark here and they’re not happy with it. Now every year we want to be in the (district) semi-finals and compete for the league championships.
GAHANNA GIRLS FOOTBALL
•Registration: 10-7-2 overall
• OCC-Ohio Ranking: Gahanna, New Albany, Pickerington North (all 4-1), Westerville Central (2-3), Grove City (1-4), Westland (0-5)
•Lost Elders: Sydney Errington, Emily Marzetz, Julia Sammons, Mia Sammons, Daelyn Schepman and Jaeda Whittaker
• Main returnees: Maegan Chrysler, Megan Foulke, Emma Groves, Aubrey Hank, Claire Highland, Kya Jordan, Kylie Lewis and Lauren Thomas
• Post-season: Def. Licking heights 4-2; def. Hilliard Davidson 1-0; lost to Dublin Coffman 3-0 in the Division I semi-final