For Westland High School girls tennis coach Shaela Hinckley, her main goals this season are to help her team gain valuable experience while also fostering a fun, enjoyable atmosphere.
Several players who entered the season lacking experience have shown improvement, said Hinckley, who still would like to see progress in other areas.
"I just wish I could give them a little bit more confidence in their ability," she said. "A lot of it is inexperience and then they just get in their own heads and they start doubting themselves and getting angry and upset, and you can't play upset."
Westland earned its first win since 2016 when it defeated Franklin Heights 5-0 on Sept. 11 at home. Winners were Anais Fernandez 2-6, 6-4, 11-9 at first singles, Katie Murray 6-3, 3-6, 10-6 at second singles, Anna Ebert 6-2, 6-1 at third singles, Genesis Perez-Hernandez and Kacey Flanagan 6-1, 6-2 at first doubles and Samantha Khoun and Elyson Pui 6-2, 6-2 at second doubles.
The Cougars celebrated by ringing the school's victory bell.
"That was nice because we always see people post stuff on Snapchat ringing the victory bell and it was cool to finally be able to do that, especially as a team," Ebert said.
Westland, which finished 0-18 last season and 4-14 in 2016, was 1-10 overall before playing Westerville North on Sept. 20. It is 0-4 in the OCC-Central Division.
The Cougars are scheduled to visit Central Crossing for the league finale on a date to be determined. The Comets also are 0-4 in the league.
Upper Arlington, which defeated Westland 5-0 on Aug. 30, won the league title at 5-0.
The Cougars have had several bright spots this season, including the play of Ebert, a junior who earned her third win of the season with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Ready's Claire Nagy on Sept. 19 at home. Westland lost the match 4-1.
"(Hinckley) encourages us with 'you can do it.' She knows that we can do it," Ebert said.
Khoun and Pui earned a 7-6, 6-3 win at second doubles in a 4-1 loss to Westerville South on Sept. 20.
It's been an enjoyable season for Flanagan.
"This is my first year and playing with Genesis is fun because I've known her," Flanagan said. "I had (Hinckley) as a teacher, so I already knew her. She's been a big help."
Westland will compete in a Division I sectional Oct. 4 and 6 at Hilliard Bradley, Pickerington Central or UA. The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to district Oct. 11 and 13 at Reynoldsburg.
Rios earns first win as football coach
The football team was hoping to build momentum for its OCC-Central schedule when it played Olentangy Orange on Sept. 21.
The Cougars improved to 1-3 by defeating Franklin Heights 38-7 on Sept. 14.
Quarterback DeShawn Evans helped deliver the first win for first-year coach Rick Rios, completing 13 of 15 passes for 226 yards and four touchdowns.
"The kids expected to win," Rios said. "They were excited afterwards. I thought our kids handled it pretty well. We did what we needed to do. I know it was a big win for the program to establish and cement the culture and the things we've been trying to do. It was nice for the kids to see things happen that we said were going to happen."
Westland opens league play Friday, Sept. 28, at UA, which was 2-2 before playing Lancaster on Sept. 14.
Last season, the Golden Bears defeated Westland 39-7. They lead the all-time series 25-1, with the Cougars' win coming in 1990 (19-7).
"This is the first time around the block here for us (coaches), and (the OCC) is big for the kids," Rios said. "Heading into the OCC, it's exciting to get a chance to see where we stand. It's going to be a measuring stick of where our program is at this point."
Through four games, Evans had completed 85 of 145 passes for 1,064 yards with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions. He also had yet to be sacked.
Peterson Iresne had rushed for 283 yards and four touchdowns on 61 carries, and Anthony Widen had 27 catches for 382 yards and six touchdowns.
Isaiah Dukes (272 yards) and Robert Clark (268 yards) also had contributed at wide receiver.
"We preach get better every day and no matter how good or bad we are on one day, the next day has to be better than the last one," Rios said. "As long as we keep doing that and playing with relentless effort, for us that's been the big thing. If we play with relentless effort, we have a chance."
Girls volleyball team seeking strong finish
The girls volleyball team was 4-9 overall and 0-3 in the OCC-Central before playing Hilliard Davidson on Sept. 20.
Westland visits Central Crossing on Tuesday, Sept. 25, for the first of two league meetings. The teams close the regular season Oct. 11 at Westland.
"That's always a great match for us, especially since we split the series last year," coach Nicole Zumpano said.
The Cougars have been playing without senior outside hitter Madison Green, who has been out with a right arm injury.
Zumpano hopes Green will return by the last week of the regular season. The Division I district tournament begins Oct. 15.
"If we could get her for that last week and then the tournament, that would be fantastic," Zumpano said.
Boys golf team preps for postseason
Boys golf coach Brad Kramer continues to see improvement as his team prepares for a Division I sectional Oct. 2 at Denison Golf Club.
The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams at sectional advance to district Oct. 9 at Apple Valley.
"The guys are hitting the ball better. They just can't quite score better yet," Kramer said. "The biggest part that we need to work on is course management. Each player has their own individual goal and we hope to shoot 475 at the sectional tournament."
Below are the coming schedules for the Westland cross country, boys golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 29 -- Erin L. Nance Fall Distance Classic at London Country Club
Sept. 29 -- Groveport at Oakhurst
*Sept. 25 -- At Upper Arlington
Sept. 27 -- Home vs. Westerville South
*Sept. 25 -- Home vs. UA
Sept. 25 -- Home vs. Northland
Sept. 26 -- At Hamilton Township
Sept. 27 -- Home vs. Eastmoor Academy
*Sept. 25 -- At Central Crossing
Sept. 26 -- Home vs. Hilliard Darby
*Sept. 27 -- Home vs. Marysville. The Cougars lost to the Monarchs 23-25, 25-22, 28-26, 25-11 on Sept. 4.