In his first year as Hartley High School girls basketball coach last season, Mike Lanza faced a difficult challenge. Not only was he charged with turning around a team that had found little success within the CCL, but he also had to replace seven players from a team that went 7-13 the year before he took over.

In his first year as Hartley High School girls basketball coach last season, Mike Lanza faced a difficult challenge. Not only was he charged with turning around a team that had found little success within the CCL, but he also had to replace seven players from a team that went 7-13 the year before he took over.

Taking a quick glance at Hartley's 7-14 overall record last season, it wouldn't appear the Hawks enjoyed a successful season. But Hartley grew immensely over the course of the season and Lanza expects that to continue as the Hawks return four starters.

Hartley tied for fifth (2-8) in the CCL with Columbus School for Girls last season. Watterson (10-0) won the title and was followed by DeSales (7-3), Ready (5-5) and Worthington Christian (4-6).

The Hawks fell 51-34 to fifth-seeded Bexley 51-34 in the second round of the Division II district tournament after having a first-round bye.

"Well it was the first season and we needed to establish the program so I think that was OK," Lanza said. "I think what we're trying to do is improve. We're not necessarily looking at records, but we're trying to improve as a program and do things well on offense and defense. We're just trying to get better each year."

Returning starters include Angela Lanza (guard), Ashley Young (guard), Kristina Heinmiller (forward) and Alexys Settles (center).

Lanza (8.9 points per game) and Young (7.6) are the leading returning scorers. Both earned all-CCL honors.

"I think it helps having those starters back because they understand our system," coach Lanza said. "They're back for another season so now they know what to expect."

"I think our expectations are a lot higher than they were last year," forward Leah Bell said. "We've got a lot of returning players and we know how to play with each other a lot better. I think we have more to prove this year as well."

Coach Lanza cited team chemistry as one of the team's strengths.

The Hawks will rely on that chemistry along with their hard work to overcome one key weakness. Heinmiller and Settles will be counted upon in the post but even with them Hartley is one of the smaller teams in the CCL.

The Hawks are hoping to do even better in the league this season and that goal is very attainable.

Watterson is still considered to be the favorite to win the league championship but the rest of the teams have weaknesses of their own.

"The league we play in is just murder but I don't know about it this year," coach Lanza said. "I'll know about some of the other teams once I see them. I do think we have improved a lot compared to last year but I don't know how much the other teams in the CCL have improved."

"I think we're going to be better in the CCL this year," Heinmiller said.

Coach Lanza said keys for Hartley will be playing good defense, limiting the opposition to few offensive rebounds and cutting down on turnovers.

"We gave up way too many offensive rebounds last year. And we turned the ball over too much, so those are two main areas I'd like to see us improve in," coach Lanza said.

Following Saturday's opener at home against Groveport, Hartley will play host to Bexley on Dec. 4. That game against the Lions will provide a nice gauge for Hartley. The Hawks lost to Bexley twice last season but played the Lions tough both times, losing 44-31 in the regular season.

"I'm not a real big goal guy because I think that the main thing is to show overall improvement," coach Lanza said. "If you set a goal as a district title and don't win it but yet you improved tremendously, it looks like you haven't done much when in reality you have.

"So I would say all of our girls know that the constant goal is to show improvement."

At a glance

•Coach: Mike Lanza, second season

•Opener: Saturday vs. Groveport

•Key players: Kristina Heinmiller, Angela Lanza, Alexys Settles and Ashley Young