Rachel Hatley guessed high last week when her Canal Winchester High School girls golf coach, Greg Hippler, asked her what her 18-hole average was a freshman.
"Wow," Hatley said, smiling. "I'll go with a 105."
It actually was 99.8, but Hatley's guess somewhat underscored her improvement from the past three years, growth that already has put the senior in the program's record books twice and might again.
Hatley averaged a 77 in the four rounds of the OCC-Central Division tournament, the first Indians golfer to average under 80 in the event since Canal Winchester joined the conference before the 2013-14 school year. She also was averaging 39.3 shots per nine holes entering the week, and would become the first Indians golfer to average under 40 for a season if she maintains that pace.
Hatley averaged 49.5 per nine holes as a freshman before steadily trimming her average to 44 as a sophomore and 42 last year. She also owns the program's nine-hole record of 35, set against Gahanna and Upper Arlington at Westchester during her junior season.
"Freshman year, I just wanted to get better," Hatley said. "I hear the numbers and think, 'Oh, that's cool,' but nothing else really. I wasn't shooting for that. I just wanted to lower my average and get better. I do think it's really cool, but it's nothing I was aiming for."
Hatley earned second-team all-league honors this season, largely because the OCC-Central was dominated by New Albany and UA, the first and second seeds in the district for the Division I postseason. She would been first team in the both the OCC-Buckeye and OCC-Ohio, and would have owned the fourth- and second-best averages in those divisions, respectively.
"If you are one of our younger players and see how she is playing now, it gives you so much hope," Hippler said. "Course management was one of the biggest things (for Hatley). She has a nice swing, but to manage your way around a course is completely different. Every time you are out there, that experience will pay dividends in your future. Obviously, Rachel is hitting the ball better and her short game is tremendous, but the biggest adjustment she's made the last two years is she's added a little bit of length and her short game has improved. Her putting has been fantastic, and she makes good decisions."
Even when she doesn't, that doesn't mean a round is doomed. Hippler recalled a particular stretch during a match against Columbus School for Girls on Sept. 6 at Blacklick Woods, when Hatley was even par through four holes but encountered trouble on the fifth.
"It ended up rolling exactly into where a girl had just hit out of," Hippler said. "She had such a bad lie and tried to get cute with it. She plunked her next shot into the water and ended up with a triple bogey. She was extremely upset, but she refocused and from that point forward she buckled down on every single shot and fought for the best score she could finish with.
"She went from being upset because she was playing so well ... to finishing like that. It tells everybody what they need to do to play well."
Hatley, who was 2-under par on the last four holes and finished with a 38 on Sept. 6, "absolutely" remembered the hole.
"I had to get myself together and really work for my score," she said. "I had to forget about that hole altogether."
Canal Winchester will compete in a sectional Tuesday, Oct. 2, at Westchester, its home course. The top three teams and top three individuals not on a qualifying team advance to district Oct. 9 at Cooks Creek.
"I've been trying not to put pressure on myself," Hatley said of the postseason. "If (a district berth) happens, it happens. I've been consistent, so I want to let my game take over."
Volleyball team still 'learning' how to win
The girls volleyball team was 5-9 overall before playing Newark on Sept. 25, but coach Kellina Snyder and her players hardly were discouraged.
Canal Winchester had lost only eight games by more than 10 points and took host New Albany to five games in a key OCC-Capital match Sept. 20 before falling 25-9, 21-25, 21-25, 25-19, 15-9. That loss dropped the Indians to 2-2 in the league before Sept. 25, two matches behind first-place Big Walnut and one behind second-place New Albany.
Canal Winchester will play host to defending OCC-Capital champion Big Walnut on Thursday, Sept. 27, to begin the second half of league play.
"We have some role players who are stepping up and other girls coming off the bench and making good decisions," Snyder said. "We're at the tip of learning how to win. We need to learn how to finish a match. Losing is a habit and winning is a habit, and right now we're still learning. We have to break that (losing) habit."
The Indians split a non-league tri-match Sept. 22 at Watkins Memorial, losing to the host Warriors 25-15, 25-14 and beating Thomas Worthington 25-7, 25-10.
Amanda Rarick led the Indians in kills with 69 through 12 matches, ahead of Shalea Byrd (36), Natalie Rarick (35) and Jayana Thompson (34). Emi Waller had 293 digs, followed by Rylee Gillam with 106 and Sammy McDonnell with 104.
"(McDonnell) has been great as a defensive specialist off the bench," Snyder said. "When she's passing well, we tend to be in ballgames. ...
"We need to learn how to keep driving the game to our attackers. Girls making a difference, that's what we need. We just want to start coming out on top a little more often."
Boys soccer team hitting stride
The boys soccer team's season has been full of streaks, and Canal Winchester entered a Sept. 25 home game against Franklin Heights having won four games in a row.
The Indians started 0-0-2 and 1-0-3 before losing three consecutive games, two of which were against St. Charles (3-0 on Aug. 30) and Pickerington North (2-0 on Sept. 4). St. Charles was ranked 10th in last week's Division I state poll, and North had won 10 in a row entering the week after a season-opening loss to St. Charles.
Canal Winchester then defeated Big Walnut 6-1 in its OCC-Capital opener Sept. 13, Logan 7-2 on Sept. 15, Groveport 3-0 in a league game Sept. 20 and Watkins Memorial 4-1 on Sept. 22. The Indians were 5-3-3 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Capital before Sept. 25.
Will Jenkins had a team-high eight goals through 11 games, followed by Sam Dowden and Ian Monesmith with five each.
Canal Winchester will visit two-time defending league champion New Albany on Tuesday, Oct. 2. The Indians lost to the Eagles 3-1 last year and 2-1 in 2016.
Below are the coming schedules for the Canal Winchester cross country, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 29 -- Panther Invitational at Pickerington North
Sept. 27 -- Columbus Academy and Westerville South at Royal American
Sept. 29 -- Match Play Challenge at Pine Hill
Oct. 2 -- Division I sectional at Turnberry. Top four teams and top four individuals not on a qualifying team advance to district Oct. 9 at Apple Valley.
Oct. 2 -- Division I sectional at West-chester
Sept. 29 -- At Clayton Northmont
*Oct. 2 -- At New Albany
*Oct. 2 -- Home vs. New Albany
Sept. 27 -- At Grandview
Oct. 1 -- Home vs. Hamilton Township in makeup from Aug. 22
*Sept. 27 -- Home vs. Big Walnut. The Indians lost to the Golden Eagles 25-11, 25-19, 25-18 on Sept. 4.
*Oct. 2 -- At Groveport. The Indians defeated the Cruisers 25-11, 25-21, 26-24 on Sept. 6.