Coming off back-to-back Division IV state championships, the Hartley High School football team enters this year's postseason feeling rejuvenated because of a fresh goal.

The Hawks have won nine games in a row and are seeded third in the Region 11 playoffs, and they're competing in the Division III postseason for the first time.

"We're hungry going into the playoffs, and we're looking to establish ourselves as a dominant team in Division III," senior running back and linebacker Nick Cone said. "Coming off nine straight wins going into the playoffs only helps in our relentless pursuit of another long playoff run. We're clicking extremely well as a team and playing at a high level going into the playoffs, which is a great feeling."

Hartley, which is 9-1, will play host to sixth-seeded New Philadelphia, which also is 9-1, in its playoff opener Friday, Nov. 3.

The Hawks are in the playoffs for the eighth year in a row, while the Quakers are in for the seventh consecutive season.

The contest represents the first meeting between the teams. Their only common opponent this season was St. Charles, which New Philadelphia edged 29-28 on Sept. 15 but Hartley blew past 46-7 on Oct. 27 in its regular-season finale.

The first-round winner plays second-seeded Independence or seventh-seeded Jackson in a regional semifinal Nov. 10.

The Hawks' win over the Cardinals gave them the outright CCL championship at 3-0, ahead of DeSales (2-1), Watterson (1-2) and St. Charles (0-3). They also defeated Ready 42-10 on Oct. 6, but the Silver Knights did not compete in the same division of the CCL this fall.

"When you build as a team, the goal is to win a championship," coach Brad Burchfield said. "To win the CCL means a ton to our program. We revere our place in this great league and there's a great sense of pride in winning it."

New Philadelphia, which was the Division III, Region 9 runner-up last season, is led on offense by sophomore quarterback Baron May, sophomore wide receiver Sam Zemis and senior running back Kye Crowthers.

"They have a great quarterback who is dangerous," Burchfield said. "We need to stop him and limit his opportunities. We're healthy and focused. Our program always has lofty goals. Now's our chance."

Kitsmiller represents runners at regional

Freshman Ellie Kitsmiller finished 52nd (20 minutes, 57.5 seconds) of 153 runners in the Division II regional meet Oct. 28 at Pickerington North.

The top 24 runners advanced to the state meet Saturday, Nov. 4, at National Trail Raceway.

Kitsmiller was the Hawks' only representative at regional after placing 19th (20:24.85) in the district meet Oct. 21 at Watkins Memorial.

"It was really fun and exciting to be here," Kitsmiller said. "I was pretty happy. Considering the temperature, I felt like I ran as fast as I could. I kind of progressed as the season went on, dropping time."

The only senior to compete at district for the girls was Audrey Bailey, who turned in the team's seventh-best time.

The Hawks' other district competitors were juniors Cara Luallen and Bailee Zacovic, sophomore Kate Sheely and freshmen Pailyn Groene and Anna Woods as Hartley finished seventh (185 points) behind champion Bexley (79).

The Hawks were runners-up (45) in the CCL meet Oct. 14 at Otterbein University, behind DeSales (37) and ahead of Watterson (52), Columbus School for Girls (90) and Ready (144).

"(Kitsmiller) did really well," coach Reggie Osborne said. "It's been a good season for us. We had a young team."

The boys team didn't have any Division II regional qualifiers.

Senior Evan Vautour finished 26th (17:42.17) in the district 2 meet to lead the Hawks, who placed eighth (181) behind champion Heath (50).

Also competing at district were senior Chase Rawlins, junior Christopher Wolf, sophomores Adam Dinovo and Chase Orndoff and freshmen Luke Brandewie and Luke Vautour.

The Hawks finished fourth (89) in the CCL meet, behind St. Charles (24), Watterson (54) and DeSales (78) and ahead of Ready (136).

"The boys team's last race (district) was its best race of the season," Osborne said. "We've got the majority of those guys coming back."

Club water polo team progresses

The Columbus Hawks girls water polo team, which features athletes from Hartley and includes middle school athletes, beat host Cincinnati Princeton 6-4 on Oct. 21 to finish seventh in the state tournament.

The Hawks are coached by Hartley boys and girls swimming and diving coach Tony Phillips. It was the fourth season for the program but the first in which it played a full varsity schedule.

"In the past, due to our collective inexperience, we played mostly (junior varsity) games," Phillips said. "We started the team largely as a way to keep some of our high school swimmers in the water throughout the fall. As our team has grown, we're now actually seeing some athletes join in on the swim team so they can keep in shape for water polo. It's been a fun complement to the training many of them do for winter swimming and we hope we're doing our part to help promote the sport in our area."

Senior Maggie Phillips and sophomore Mia Phillips, the coach's daughters, led the team in steals and goals, respectively. Mia Phillips was named second-team all-state.

Juniors Deanne Archambeau and Riley Rogers also were among the key players.

Others in the program included sophomores Elyse Fox, Olivia Haeger, Sidney Poulos and Ellie Tanner, freshman Emma Simone, eighth-grader Novalee Roberto and seventh-grader Cecelia Tanner.

"Although we only had four returning players from last year, our new players made tremendous progress, as evidenced from a very successful state finish this season," coach Phillips said.

The Hawks also have a boys team that competed at the j.v. state tournament in Toledo during the third weekend in October.

Girls soccer season ends in district semi

After pulling a second-round surprise, the seventh-seeded girls soccer team's season ended with a 3-0 loss to second-seeded Big Walnut in a Division II district semifinal Oct. 24.

The Hawks, who opened the postseason by beating 11th-seeded London 3-0 on Oct. 16 and then upset third-seeded Jonathan Alder 1-0 on Oct. 19, finished 7-11-1 overall.

"(Big Walnut has) got a lot of skill and is a very hard team to play," first-year coach Andrew Jahahn said.

Hartley won just three of its first 13 games, but had won four of its previous five games before losing to the Golden Eagles.

"One of the biggest things we talked about was keeping the momentum going into the future," Jahahn said. "We definitely built some good momentum with the players we have coming back, and hopefully we'll be getting some good eighth-graders next year."

Against Jonathan Alder, sophomore attacker Helena Donaghy scored and sophomore goalkeeper Sophia Cegledy made five saves.

The Hawks are losing eight seniors, including Lindsey Dunlap (midfielder), Britney Golden (center back) and Erika Welsh (forward).

Others eligible to return include junior Grace Gill (center midfielder), sophomore Caroline Leatherman (defensive midfielder) and freshmen Emma Bergman (midfielder/attacker) and Emily Moore (defensive midfielder).

Donaghy finished with five goals and three assists, Golden had five goals and Dunlap had four goals and five assists.

Hartley finished third in the CCL at 2-2, behind DeSales (3-0-1) and Watterson (3-1) and ahead of CSG (1-2-1) and Ready (0-4).

Volleyball team falls to Panthers

In its first season in Division I after being a perennial Division II power, the girls volleyball team came up short against one of central Ohio's top teams in a district semifinal.

The 11th-seeded Hawks opened the district tournament with wins over 49th-seeded Mifflin (25-2, 25-5, 25-7 on Oct. 16) and 43rd-seeded Briggs (25-10, 25-2, 25-9 on Oct. 18) before losing to fifth-seeded Pickerington North 16-25, 25-14, 20-25, 25-22, 15-13 on Oct. 24 at Franklin Heights.

Hartley finished 18-7 overall and 5-3 in the CCL, tying Watterson for second behind DeSales (8-0) and ahead of CSG (2-6) and Ready (0-8).

"We set the bar for Hartley at the Division I level if we're still (in) Division I next year," coach Mike Rahe said. "It could have easily been a point here or there (against North). We executed our game plan for two out of the five games."

The Hawks are losing five seniors, including Abby Bergman (middle hitter/right-side hitter), Olivia Kirwin (libero) and Paige Rawlins (setter/right-side hitter).

During the regular season, Bergman was third on the team in kills (87) and second in blocks (21), Kirwin led in digs (321) and serves received (292) and Rawlins led in assists (269).

Leading the returnees should be juniors Kayla Malone (right-side hitter/outside hitter), Chiamaka Nwokolo (middle hitter) and Ashley Tipton (defensive specialist), sophomores Maya Hendricks (outside hitter/right-side hitter) and Colleen Sweeney (setter/right-side hitter) and freshman Colleen Sweeney (setter/right-side hitter).

During the regular season, Nwokolo led the Hawks in kills (244) and blocks (40), Malone was second in digs (115), Tipton was third in digs (114) and Sweeney was second in assists (209).

"We'll have a big senior class next year," Rahe said.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek