After a slow start, the Whitehall-Yearling High School girls volleyball team is hoping to bounce back and earn its first back-to-back winning seasons under 10th-year coach Danielle Jackson.

The Rams earned their first win by defeating Northland 25-10, 25-22, 25-14 on Aug. 27 at home and were 1-5 overall before playing in the Heath Invitational on Sept. 1.

Senior outside hitter Makhia Hinton said a 29-27 loss in the third game of a three-game loss to Bexley on Aug. 23 was a turning point. The Rams lost the first two games 25-12, 25-17 in their MSL-Ohio Division opener.

"We just need to come together and work harder than we have been," said Hinton, who has moved from middle hitter. "We want to win a lot of games this year. ... We did a good job in coming back against Bexley."

Hinton had an impressive junior season, finishing with 213 kills, 51 aces, 42 blocks and 303 digs. She was named first-team all-league and second-team all-district in Division II.

Entering play Sept. 1, she had 57 kills, 52 digs and nine aces.

Last season, Whitehall finished 15-10 overall for Jackson's first winning season and lost in a district semifinal for the second consecutive season.

"I know we'll turn it around," Jackson said. "The girls are just getting used to playing together. We had some summer league, but even then there were girls having jobs or going on vacation. We didn't always have everybody there, so they're really just starting to learn how to play together, trust each other and know where each other are out on the court, so we'll get there."

Senior outside hitter Alyson Shoemaker had 324 digs and 36 kills last season. She had 47 digs and 19 kills before Sept. 1.

Senior Riley Maxstead, who has moved from defensive specialist to setter, had 301 digs and 11 aces last season. She had 55 assists before Sept. 1.

Senior defensive specialist Kody Seberig and junior middle hitter Kaila Daugherty also return.

Other players are juniors Samara Burton (outside hitter), Tashy Cherotich (outside hitter), Areon Fikes (middle hitter) and Madisyn Stewart (defensive specialist), sophomores Kylie Brown (defensive specialist/setter) and Kristina Desenberg (middle hitter/outside hitter) and freshmen Mya Fuller (setter) and Kiarra Hodge (outside hitter).

Fuller had 28 assists before Sept. 1.

"The girls are working hard and they're putting in the effort," Jackson said. "We've got big shoes to fill, but the girls are stepping up and they're willing to make the adjustments we need. They're working hard. I can't fault them for that."

Key losses to graduation include setter Sarah Seberig (second-team all-league, honorable mention all-district) and outside hitter Makencie Wilson (honorable mention all-league).

Last season, the Rams went 6-4 in the MSL-Ohio to finish third behind champion London (10-0). London has moved to the Central Buckeye Conference.

"We only have five teams in the league now, so it's not as tough as it used to be, but it's still tough," Jackson said. "It has tough competition and everybody is pretty equal, so it will definitely be interesting to see how our league pans out this year."

Boys runners hope to develop

With several new runners on the team, boys cross country coach Robert Taylor hopes the Rams progress as the season continues.

Whitehall opened by finishing fifth (155 points) of seven teams in the 33rd annual Dan Reid Invitational on Aug. 25 at home behind champion Canal Winchester (36).

Senior Chris Charles was 16th of 117 runners in 19 minutes, 1.7 seconds. Senior Alex Rodriguez was 41st (20:39.2), followed by seniors Ben Pooch (72nd, 23:17.6) and Max McQuate (80th, 23:50.2) and junior Carter Paddock (82nd, 23:55.6).

Senior Resean Hutter and sophomore Yared Yesuf also return, while McQuate is in his first season.

"We're not going to have as strong of a team as in past years because of numbers, but our top two should be very strong, Chris and Alex," said Taylor, who is in his eighth season."Yared could potentially be a third strong runner and then we have three or four guys behind him who have chances to give us a strong five."

Charles led the Rams last season, finishing 53rd (17:39.23) in the Division I district meet.

Girls runners have new coach

The girls cross country team has a new leader as Natasha Gallagher has replaced Gabriela Ivoska as coach after three seasons.

Whitehall did not have enough runners for a team score in the Dan Reid Invitational. Junior Rebekah Revadelo was 63rd (35:55.3) to lead the Rams, and junior Athena Funk was 68th (43:37.3).

Junior Abadit Negasi led the Rams at district last season (92nd, 24:35.16), and junior Cali Justice also returns.

Other runners are junior Justice Daniels and freshmen Abigail Alonso-Arias, Ililli Bakeye, Mya Cornell, Merafe Endalew, Leslie Gonzalez and Sinia Walker.

"We're starting to do better," Gallagher said. "We've had six to seven girls at practice. ... My goal this year is to start building the team. We have quite a few freshmen and sophomores, so we want to build the team and get them excited for getting out there and running and build up the girls program."

Football team to face Whetstone

The football team will visit Whetstone on Friday, Sept. 7, in a rematch of a game the Rams won 38-10 last season.

Whetstone lost to Watkins Memorial 54-6 on Aug. 24 and played Briggs on Aug. 31.

The Rams played Northland on Aug. 31 after losing to Westerville Central 19-6 on Aug. 24.

Raymell Byrd passed for 108 yards and rushed for 89 against the Warhawks, and Wayne Blackshear rushed for 105 yards on 17 carries.

The Braves managed just 62 yards of offense while allowing 400 against Watkins Memorial. Sophomore Darric McClinton rushed for 64 yards on 16 carries.

Sophomore Alex Hurd is the quarterback, with junior Rashaun Bloomfield expected to contribute at running back, receiver and quarterback.

Whetstone is seeking its first winning season since 2013 when it finished 6-4.

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank

Schedules

CROSS COUNTRY

Aug. 25 -- Dan Reid Invitational at home

Sept. 1 -- Granville Invitational at Bryn Du Mansion

Sept. 8 -- Northland Invitational at Beechcroft

Sept. 15 -- Bobcat Invitational at Grandview

Sept. 19 -- Arrowhead Invitational at Whetstone

Sept. 22 -- Bob Reall Invitational at Lancaster

Sept. 26 -- Rick Mettle Invitational at Walnut Ridge

Sept. 29 -- Erin L. Nance Fall Distance Classic at London Country Club

Oct. 13 -- MSL-Ohio meet at Camp Bobcat in Chillicothe

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Aug. 18 -- vs. Eastmoor Academy and Groveport

Aug. 20 -- at Liberty Union

Aug. 21 -- at Columbus West

*Aug. 23 -- at Bexley

Aug. 27 -- vs. Northland

Sept. 1 -- Heath Invitational

*Sept. 6 -- vs. Grandview

*Sept. 13 -- at Worthington Christian

Sept. 18 -- vs. Westland

Sept. 19 -- at Whetstone

Sept. 24 -- vs. Africentric

*Sept. 26 -- at Columbus Academy

*Sept. 27 -- vs. Bexley

*Oct. 4 -- at Grandview

Oct. 8 -- at Columbus School for Girls

*Oct. 9 -- vs. Worthington Christian

*Oct. 11 -- vs. Columbus Academy

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the Whitehall-Yearling boys soccer, girls soccer and girls tennis teams:

BOYS SOCCER

*Sept. 8 -- At Columbus Academy

Sept. 11 -- At Logan

GIRLS SOCCER

*Sept. 8 -- Home vs. Academy

Sept. 10 -- At Mifflin

*Sept. 12 -- At Wellington

GIRLS TENNIS

Sept. 10 -- At Westerville North

*Sept. 11 -- At Academy

*League contest