Westland High School girls volleyball coach Eric Hughes is hoping his team's three-game victory over Central Crossing will lead to a turnaround in the second half of the season.
The Cougars earned their first OCC-Central Division win of the season, defeating the visiting Comets 25-17, 25-21, 25-23 on Sept. 18.
"I'm absolutely thrilled," Hughes said. "It seemed like a turning point. The last week I've seen things from some of the girls that I knew they were capable of but I've never seen before. That was definitely a good win."
The Cougars were 3-9 overall and 1-6 in the OCC-Central before beginning the second round of league play against Marysville on Sept. 20.
"We were just so pumped, especially the seniors because this is our year," senior defensive specialist Stephanie Mitchell said. "Everybody was really into it. We've always had the skill; it's just the mental part of it. Our coaches this year have really been working on that."
Westland's other wins came against Fisher Catholic (25-14, 21-25, 25-20 in the Karen Wohrer Invitational on Sept. 1 at Lancaster) and Westerville South (25-23, 17-25, 25-21 on Sept. 8).
The Cougars play host to Thomas Worthington on Tuesday, Sept. 25, and Hilliard Davidson on Thursday, Sept. 27, in league matches. They lost to Thomas 25-16, 25-19, 25-18 on Aug. 30 and lost to Davidson 25-16, 25-22, 25-15 on Sept. 4.
"We had a lot of close games through the first half of the season," Hughes said. "So getting ready for the second half, I definitely believe they can beat some of these teams that we had some close losses to."
Coffman is aiming for its sixth consecutive league title. Last season, the Shamrocks finished 22-5 overall and went 14-0 in the OCC-Central. They were 7-0 in league play before playing Davidson on Sept. 20, including a 25-21, 25-11, 25-16 win over the Cougars on Sept. 11.
Westland plays host to Coffman on Oct. 4.
"The team to beat is Dublin Coffman," Hughes said. "We put a little bit of fear into them the first time. We led them the entire first game until (we got to) about 20 (points), so taking a game or two from Coffman would be absolutely huge for this program."
Through 12 matches, freshman outside hitter Jenna Panning had a team-high 66 kills, followed by senior outside hitter Bianca Anderson (54) and sophomore middle blocker Kyleigh Jackson (38).
Junior setter Erika Moore had 157 assists, while Jackson led the team with 98 blocks and junior libero Maria Turner had a team-high 63 digs.
Hughes said the contributions made by seniors Hollie Hawse, Taylor Moreno, Hannah Overturf and Amber Rose and sophomore Abigail McCormick also have helped the Cougars improve.
Football team getting ready to face Davidson
The football team will face another challenge when it travels to Davidson on Friday, Sept. 28, for an OCC-Central contest.
The Cougars were 1-3 overall and 0-1 in the OCC-Central before playing Thomas Worthington on Sept. 21. They lost to Marysville 51-14 on Sept. 14 at home in their league opener.
Davidson leads the all-time series with Westland 13-0, including a 64-0 win last season. The Wildcats were 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the OCC-Central before playing Central Crossing on Sept. 21.
"Davidson is hard-working and they do the right things," coach Steve White said. "Coach (Brian) White knows how to get it done. The kids have obviously bought into what he's doing, so they're going to keep believing."
Against Marysville, senior quarterback Jalen Brown completed 11 of 34 passes for 155 yards and rushed for 137 yards and two touchdowns (9 and 2 yards) on 29 carries.
Marysville scored on a 78-yard kickoff return to open the game. The Monarchs also scored on a fake punt and a blocked punt.
"That hasn't happened to us all year, so hopefully that game gets it out of the way for us," White said. "We just had a couple breakdowns and one or two things happened, and that was just enough to put us in a bad position for all three of those scores."
Through four games, Brown had completed 33 of 78 passes for 493 yards and four touchdowns and had rushed for 774 yards and six touchdowns on 109 carries.
"Jalen is finally settling into the system and, because of that, some things are opening up for the offense because they've been doing it for five weeks," White said. "The reads are getting more clear for him."
Junior Myles Fowler, who was expected to be the team's starting quarterback before breaking the ring finger on his left hand during a preseason scrimmage, made his season debut against Marysville. Wearing a protective cast, he played cornerback and wide receiver.