Hartley High School senior tennis player Rachael Morales spent significant time over the past several months working on her serve, but the biggest difference in her game this season might not be as obvious.
Intent on making it to the Division II girls state tournament for the fourth time -- and with an eye on sticking around longer -- Morales focused on improving her mental game.
After putting together an undefeated regular season and with her college decision behind her, Morales was the top seed for the sectional tournament Oct. 4 and 6 at Columbus School for Girls.
She won each of her first three sectional matches by 6-0, 6-0 scores, beat Centennial's Niki Stearns 6-1, 6-1 in a semifinal and defeated DeSales' My Linh Li 6-4, 6-3 for the championship.
The top four singles and doubles finishers at sectional advanced to the district tournament Friday, Oct. 12, and Saturday, Oct. 13, at CSG. The top two singles and doubles finishers at district advance to the state tournament Oct. 19 at Ohio State and Oct. 20 at Hilliard Davidson.
Also advancing to district for the Hawks was the doubles team of seniors Kim Osborn and Reece Walaszek. Osborn and Walaszek lost to CSG's Tiffany Lau and Mary Anne Click 6-3, 6-3 in a semifinal and beat Village Academy's Allie Gales and Mallory McCorkle 6-7, 7-5, 6-2 in the third-place match.
"I feel really good about the season," said Morales, who verbally committed to Marshall University in mid-September. "Everything has been going well, and I feel so relaxed especially with me getting my college choice out of the way. I definitely feel like I've improved on my serve from last year and changing my mental attitude has been a huge thing. It's only a point and it's not going to make or break me unless it's match point."
Morales advanced to a state semifinal as a freshman but lost to Lexington's Courtney Earnest 7-6, 1-6, 6-2.
As a sophomore, Morales fell to Chagrin Falls' Emily Mazzola 5-7, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 in a second-round match.
A year ago, she again ran into Earnest and lost 7-6 (7-5), 6-0 in a first-round match.
Earnest lost the state championship last season to Millersburg West Holmes' Rachel Nelson, who also is a senior.
"All of her life Rachael has dedicated herself to the game of tennis," Hartley coach Lynn Winters said of Morales, who is a Reynoldsburg resident. "The last four years she has been extremely successful and has made Bishop Hartley a better program, but above all Rachael is sweet, caring and a tremendous teammate."
Also competing at sectional but failing to advance to district for Hartley were senior Abigail Rees in singles and the doubles team of senior Clare Kossler and freshman Madeleine McDonald.
Volleyball team hitting stride
If the girls volleyball team makes a fifth appearance in the Division II state tournament in six seasons, it will do so without the contribution of one of the state's top players.
Brooke Betts, who has verbally committed to Louisville, suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Hawks' 25-19, 23-25, 26-24, 25-22 loss to DeSales on Sept. 11.
In her absence, sophomore Shelby Chesko has settled in at middle hitter and senior Kayla Smith has moved from middle hitter to outside hitter. Sophomore Madeline Brandewie also has become a key player at middle hitter.
"We're in much better shape than we were a couple weeks ago," coach Max Miller said. "The biggest thing was seeing (Betts' injury) happen and that we actually lost that match to DeSales. We beat them fairly easily (25-12, 19-25, 25-20, 25-22 on Sept. 27) and hopefully we're on our way back to the (state tournament)."
Hartley also beat Ready 22-25, 26-24, 24-26, 25-23, 15-7 on Sept. 25 and Watterson 25-12, 28-26, 26-28, 19-25, 15-9 on Oct. 2 and was 13-6 overall and 5-1 in the CCL before playing Columbus School for Girls on Oct. 10. The Hawks close the league schedule Thursday, Oct. 11, against visiting Watterson.
In addition, the Hawks defeated defending Division III state champion Casstown Miami East 25-19, 24-26, 25-22, 16-25, 15-12 on Sept. 29. Hartley lost to Bloom-Carroll 25-21, 16-25, 29-27, 22-25, 15-10 on Oct. 3 and closes the regular season Saturday, Oct. 13, at home against Huron.
While Miami East was first and Bloom-Carroll was fourth in last week's Division III state poll, Hartley was sixth in Division II.
Football team set for Ironton
On the way to the 2010 Division IV state championship, the football team lost 37-16 to Ironton in week eight of the regular season but beat the Tigers 26-20 five weeks later in the Region 15 championship game.
Hartley, which beat Ironton 34-16 a year ago, travels Friday, Oct. 12, to meet the Tigers in a rematch of state-ranked teams. The Hawks were first and Ironton was ninth in last week's Division IV state poll.
Hartley defeated Fort Wayne (Ind.) Luers 40-7 on Oct. 5 to improve to 7-0. Ironton lost to Watterson 42-8 on Oct. 5 to fall to 5-1.
Through six weeks, Ja'Wuan Woodley had rushed for 790 yards and nine touchdowns, Marcellus Calhoun had 639 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns and Sam Mackowiak had rushed for 385 yards and four scores.
Quarterback Jared Brandewie was 24-for-40 passing for 575 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception. His top targets have been Jacob Matuska, who had eight catches for 151 yards and three touchdowns, and Dominique Scott, who had seven receptions for 196 yards and two scores.
Season ends at district for golf team
The boys golf team will lose four of the five players who competed in the postseason.
On Oct. 3 in the Division II district tournament at Granville Golf Course, Hartley shot 328 but settled for fifth as East Liverpool (314) and St. Clairsville (315) advanced to state. Senior Kevin Tillery shot 78 but missed qualifying individually by three strokes. Also competing for the Hawks were seniors Steve Marchionda (82), Billy Blashill (83) and Adam Zevchik (85) and sophomore Jack Casebolt (85).
The Hawks shot 324 on Sept. 25 in the sectional at The Players Club at Foxfire to finish behind Watterson (312) as Tillery shot 76.
Juniors Cameron Ball and Nick Ozarzak and freshman Chris Williard were contributors in line to earn spots among the top five next season.
"(Granville) is a good course, a shot-maker's course, and the greens got them," first-year coach Bill Green said.
"I thought the team had a good season, really. They all got to play a lot, which is good. We should have a pretty solid team next year."