The Delaware Hayes High School girls volleyball team is hoping experience pays dividends, as five starters return for second-year coach Josh Lee.

The Delaware Hayes High School girls volleyball team is hoping experience pays dividends, as five starters return for second-year coach Josh Lee.

"I definitely feel that the dynamics are better this season because I understand where they're coming from and they understand my strategies and philosophies and that took some time last year in my first season," Lee said.

Senior Rachel Howser (5-foot-8) and junior Krysta Iwanek (5-9) return as middle hitters, with seniors Candice Rathburn (5-8) and Sarah Scott (5-6) back as outside hitters. Also returning is junior libero Jen Foreman.

Last season, Delaware finished 8-15 overall and lost to fourth-seeded Westerville Central 25-12, 25-21, 25-18 in the second round of the Division I district tournament after beating Northland 25-12, 25-20, 25-8 in the first round.

The Pacers went 6-8 in the OCC-Capital Division last year to tie New Albany for fifth, behind Hilliard Bradley (13-1), Big Walnut (12-2), Mount Vernon (10-4) and Olentangy Orange (7-7) and ahead of Watkins Memorial (2-12) and Franklin Heights (0-14).

Delaware lost only two players from a year ago to graduation in setter Andie Moore, who was second-team all-league last fall, and outside hitter Keshawna Ximines, who was honorable mention all-league.

"I think we are a fairly strong passing team and I think our defense is improving," Lee said. "I think those will be our strengths. I have some concerns about our ability to communicate during the play and in between plays. I feel like we have most of the pieces of the puzzle, and we're working to find the rest."

Juniors Kaitlyn Woerner and Ivy Hankins both are expected to see action at setter, especially if Lee chooses to use a 6-2 scheme.

"Ivy Hankins is new to us from Buckeye Valley, and she's a quick and spirited athlete who will add a nice dynamic to our team," Lee said.

"Both Ivy and Kaitlyn are doing a great job and are hard workers. Right now, we want to see what works best for us. I think we'll be capable of transitioning between (the 5-1 and 6-2 schemes) all season if we want to."

Others expected to contribute at outside hitter include seniors Phoebe Lewis (5-8) and Kylee Pelletier (5-10) and junior Katie Ellis (5-8).

As part of OCC realignment, Bradley moved to the OCC-Cardinal and was replaced by Olentangy, which had been in the OCC-Cardinal.

"I believe that our conference is very even this year and the majority of teams have a great chance at rising to the top," Lee said. "It is all dependent on the determination and perseverance of the athletes to practice harder than they will play."

Seven runners back for girls squad

The girls cross country team competed in the Division I regional meet last season for the first time since 2006 and only two regulars were lost to graduation.

Returnees include seniors Christiana Binkley, Harlee Mollenkopf and Sierra Mollenkopf, junior Emily Richards and sophomores Sam Curtin, Sammi Piroska and Alyssa Wheeler.

"The girls team has a lot of experience," said eighth-year coach Jim Bibler, who oversees both the boys and girls teams.

"Emily Richards was a regional finalist in the 400 meters in track (last spring) and had a great summer. She did not miss one day of training and she (set a personal record) by 20 seconds in our first meet (OHSAA Preseason Invitational on Aug. 18 at National Trail Raceway)."

At regional at Pickerington North, Delaware scored 401 points to finish 16th of 16 teams, as Hilliard Davidson (74), Dublin Coffman (82), Dublin Scioto (100) and Upper Arlington (130) advanced to state.

Katie Haller, a 2012 graduate, led the Pacers, finishing 72nd in 21 minutes, 46.54 seconds, as the top 16 individuals advanced to state.

Richards finished 77th (21:53.87), followed by Sierra Mollenkopf (88th, 22:06.31), 2012 graduate Alanna Sturgill (102nd, 22:32.45), Curtin (109th, 22:58.81), Piroska (112th, 23:10.12) and Binkley (120th, 24:16.58).

Harlee Mollenkopf did not compete at regional because of illness.

The Pacers advanced to regional by placing sixth (174) in the 15-team district 3 race at Watkins Memorial. They earned the last of six regional-qualifying spots, edging seventh-place Teays Valley (181).

In the OCC-Capital meet last year, Delaware finished fifth (103) behind New Albany (34), Watkins Memorial (54), Orange (79) and Bradley (84) and ahead of Big Walnut (172) and Mount Vernon (191). Franklin Heights did not have a team score.

Harlee Mollenkopf was second-team all-league and Haller and Sierra Mollenkopf were honorable mention. Sturgill was named team MVP and Richards was named Most Improved on the team.

Also expected to be regular contributors this season are junior Courtney White and freshman Hannah Myers.

Vying for time are seniors Emily Burkhart, Kyra Mack and Tayler Reid, juniors Jessie Cremer, Melissa Latto and Summer Sellers, sophomores Willow Mollenkopf, Dawn O'Hair and Kristina Sponseller and freshmen Kirsten Bowe, Emma Chapman, Hannah Kern, Shelby Sturgill, Emily Sweazey, Megan Swisher, Libby Traverse and Mackenzie Welling.

In the OHSAA Preseason Invitational, Richards led Delaware, finishing 60th (20:58.14) of 232. Also competing were Sierra Mollenkopf (113th, 22:22.35), Myers (148th, 23:12.31), Harlee Mollenkopf (159th, 23:31.72) and Piroska (162nd, 23:35.67), as the Pacers finished 20th (573) in the 25-team section A race as Mason (64) won.

The boys team returns little experience, as just one scorer from the Division I, district 1 meet last season is back.

The Pacers finished eighth (209) at district as Davidson (42), Dublin Jerome (58), Central Crossing (92), Reynoldsburg (101) and Pickerington Central (124) advanced to regional. The last time Delaware advanced to regional as a team was 2007.

Senior Thomas Oliver (47th, 18:39.1) was Delaware's third of four scorers, as the top 20 individuals advanced to regional. Others returnees who competed were juniors Jacob Rumbalski (53rd, 18:54.74) and Jason Watkins (71st, 20:19.23).

Also back is junior John Homan.

Looking to contribute are seniors Scott Atkinson, Nathan Nelson, Donte Schlabach and Karl Schleutz, juniors Nathan Bobofiglio, Dustin Buschman, Brendan Conley, Adam Crosbie, Charlie Griffey, Jimmy Nicholson and Bob Putman, sophomores Sid Campbell, Grant Gannon, Christian Henry, Erik Richards, Nick Riley, Jason Saxby and Drew Williams and freshmen Corbin Binkley, Ben Clark, Lucas Eyerman, Ben Lee, Ryan Lingo and Weston Lingo.

"The boys team is very inexperienced," Bibler said. "I have challenged them at workouts to start running varsity times. A lot of the guys had good summers, but they need to become competitive quickly."

The Pacers finished fifth (152) in the OCC-Capital meet last year, behind Bradley (40), New Albany (53), Watkins Memorial (62) and Orange (71) and ahead of Mount Vernon (158) and Big Walnut (203). Franklin Heights did not have a team score.

In the OHSAA Preseason Invitational, Watkins led the Pacers, finishing 100th (18:02.12) of 229 runners in the section A race. Oliver was next (151st, 19:00.05), followed by Homan (166th, 19:15.76), Williams (172nd, 19:30.2) and Gannon (188th, 20:04.9). The Pacers finished 22nd (646) as Davidson (59) won.

Football team gets ready for Indians

The football team will play its home opener Friday, Aug. 31, against Canal Winchester, marking the first meeting between the teams.

Delaware, which opened against Buckeye Valley on Aug. 24, won three of its next four games last year after losing its opener to the Barons, but the Pacers lost their final five games to finish 3-7 under first-year coach Zeb Schroeder.

Canal Winchester, which is in the MSL-Buckeye but will be joining the OCC-Cardinal next year, finished 7-3 last season. The Indians were ninth in the Division II, Region 7 computer ratings, missing the playoffs by one spot.

Like the Pacers, Canal Winchester has a second-year coach in Shawn Hinkle.

The Indians, who opened Aug. 24 against Dublin Scioto, returned 12 starters. The strength of their team is expected to be the offensive and defensive lines.

Key players in the spread offense for Canal Winchester are running backs John Franklin, Jaquan Ransome and Lamont Martin and quarterback Isaac Pifer.

Lineman Deontaye Cosby, the Indians' leading returning tackler, heads Canal Winchester's 3-5 defense.