At 6-foot-1 and with a college future already locked up, Chiamaka Nwokolo again is excelling in her second season filling a power-hitting role for the Hartley High School girls volleyball team.
When it comes to the emotional role she plays for a Hawks team that was ranked 15th in last week’s Division II state poll, however, finesse might better describe what she provides.
“I get excited, but I’m not really a screamer,” said Nwokolo, a University of Pittsburgh commit. “(Senior teammate) Kayla Malone, she gets everybody pumped up. It’s more like I’ll talk to you face-to-face if I see you struggling, little stuff like that.”
Malone plays outside hitter and right-side hitter and had more hitting attempts than Nwokolo through 33 sets, while Nwokolo leads the CCL in kill percentage at better than 50 percent and in average kills per set with four.
Led by Nwokolo, the Hawks were 11-5 overall before playing Buckeye Valley on Oct. 1 and finished 6-2 in the CCL after beating Columbus School for Girls 25-12, 25-12, 25-11 on Sept. 27.
Hartley was the Division II state runner-up in 2016 and lost in a Division I district semifinal last season. The Hawks are back in Division II this fall.
“(Nwokolo) is overall having a good season,” coach Mike Rahe said. “She leads the league in kills and hitting percentage and has been serving well. Her and Kayla, who are both captains, have been keeping us in matches.
“(Nwokolo’s) speed, size and her versatility out in the middle (are her strengths). She can do anything. When we’re in serve-receive, we love having her on the outside or right side.”
Hartley, which lost to DeSales 25-17, 25-14, 19-25, 11-25, 15-9 on Sept. 24, earned a share of the CCL championship with the Stallions, who also finished 6-2. Watterson was 5-2 in the CCL before playing CSG on Oct. 2 and also would share the title with a win over the Unicorns.
The district tournament drawing is Sunday, Oct. 7. The Hawks figure to be among the top five seeds, along with 2017 state runner-up Big Walnut, Jonathan Alder, Sparta Highland and Granville.
“The Central District is by far the toughest region in Division II,” Rahe said. “I honestly think whoever wins the Central District will be the state champion. Hopefully it’s us, but Highland is very good, Granville is very good. Big Walnut has their whole team back from last year.”
Also a key contributor for the Hawks’ girls basketball team that won the CCL title last winter, Nwokolo saw action in all three sets of the 2016 state final that Hartley lost to Parma Padua Franciscan 25-17, 25-21, 25-20.
Last fall, she blossomed into Hartley’s leader in kills and blocks as it finished 18-7.
Because her mother, Chinyelu Nwokolo, is a nurse and her father, Ossy Nwokolo, works as a pharmacist, Chiamaka originally figured she’d end up studying to be in the medical field.
Instead, she’s planning to major in political science and behavioral science at Pittsburgh with the hope of eventually going to law school and becoming a prosecuting attorney.
That backs up her values.
“I feel like I’m good at defending people and doing what’s right, so it feels right to me,” Nwokolo said. “Whatever I do in my life, I have a purpose for helping people. After school, I go to (an elementary school) and help kids finish their homework. My mom and dad are really nice people and have been a good example.”
In the meantime, the Blacklick resident echoes Rahe’s belief that Hartley is a candidate for a long postseason run.
“We just want to get better in practice every day,” Nwokolo said. “We want to work on our weaknesses so we can get better. Our biggest goal is to win states this year. Our motto is ‘Why not us?’”
Water polo teams prep for postseason
The boys and girls club water polo teams, which feature athletes mostly from Hartley and are coached by Hawks swimming and diving coach Tony Phillips, both are in their fourth season.
The girls were 1-4-1 and the boys were 3-3 through six matches.
“We initially started the (program) four years ago to primarily help some of our winter high school swimmers have fun and stay in shape part-time in the fall, but last season our girls were seventh at (the) varsity (state tournament) and our boys were fourth at (the junior varsity state tournament),” Phillips said. “Our club is fueled largely by swimmers from Bishop Hartley, but we’ve had athletes from other schools join in to help round out the roster.”
Hartley is playing host to an invitational Saturday, Oct. 6, before the postseason begins. The varsity state tournament is Oct. 19 and 20 in Mason.
The girls team has been led by Columbus School for Girls senior Riley Rogers, Hartley juniors Olivia Haeger, Mia Phillips and Grace Sammler, Hartley sophomores Emma Simone and Ellie Tanner and Bexley sophomores Elyse Fox and Sidney Poulos, according to coach Phillips. Through six matches, Haeger had a team-high 40 blocks and Phillips led in goals and steals.
Leading the boys team have been Hartley senior Owen Kennedy, Hartley sophomore Leo Noll, Reynoldsburg senior Justin Barnhart, Columbus Metro senior Spencer Keane and Columbus Metro freshman Trevor Keane, according to coach Phillips. Four others from Hartley are on the team in junior Maxwell Pace, sophomores Tyler Brunelle and Rowan McCloskey and freshman Joey McComis.
“We’ve been pretty happy with the progress thus far,” coach Phillips said.
“There are a lot of skills and conditioning to incorporate all at once. … We have several new rookie players this season, but they’re steadily improving each week.”
Boys golfers advance to district tourney
The boys golf team competed in the Division II district tournament Oct. 3 at Denison Golf Club, where the champion and the lowest-scoring individual not on the winning team advanced to the state tournament Oct. 12 and 13 at Ohio State’s Scarlet Course.
Hartley reached district by earning a runner-up finish (322) behind Columbus Academy (314) at a sectional Sept. 25 at Oakhaven.
Senior Trent Tipton was sectional medalist with a 73 and junior Andrew Inthavongsone shot a 79 to tie for eighth. Also competing were seniors Jack Shisler (83) and Thomas Mayhan (87) and freshman Drew Navarro (101).
It was the third consecutive sectional title at Oakhaven for Tipton after he placed sixth as a freshman at the same site. Hartley has been sectional runner-up in each of Tipton’s four seasons.
Tipton won the 2016 district title at Apple Valley and the 2017 district championship at Denison Golf Club after taking fourth at Denison Golf Club as a freshman.
Tennis team set for postseason
The girls tennis team is competing in a Division II sectional at Columbus School for Girls that begins Thursday, Oct. 4, and concludes Saturday, Oct. 6.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to the district tournament Oct. 11 at CSG and Oct. 13 at Reynoldsburg.
At sectional, sophomore Gia Green and juniors Laurynn-Renee Caldwell and Lauren McFann are competing in singles, while sophomores Maria Kelley and Morgan Liden are competing together in doubles, as are juniors Elyse Amorati and Leah Herbert.
Girls golf team opens tourney play
The girls golf team opened the postseason Oct. 2 by competing in a Division I sectional at Westchester.
The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to the district tournament Tuesday, Oct. 9, at Cooks Creek. At district, the top two teams and top two individuals not on a qualifying team advance to the state tournament Oct. 19 and 20 at Ohio State’s Gray Course.
The Hawks also are competing Saturday, Oct. 6, in the CCL postseason tournament at NorthStar.Schedules
Below are the coming schedules for the Hartley field hockey, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Oct. 8 – Home vs. Dublin Coffman
*Oct. 10 – Home vs. Bexley
Oct. 9 – At Granville
*Oct. 4 – Home vs. DeSales
*Oct. 6 – At Columbus School for Girls
Oct. 9 – Home vs. Grandview
Oct. 4, 6 – Division II sectional at CSG
Oct. 6 – London Classic
Oct. 8 – At Sparta Highland