Ellen Schmidt is determined to lead a comeback for the Westland High School girls volleyball team.

Ellen Schmidt is determined to lead a comeback for the Westland High School girls volleyball team.

Last season, the Cougars went 0-14 in the OCC-Central Division and finished 0-19 overall, losing to Westerville North 25-10, 25-13, 25-18 in the first round of the Division I district tournament.

Schmidt, 25, succeeded Bryan Webb, who resigned as coach following last season.

The Cougars, who opened against Briggs and Centennial on Aug. 27, play host to Hilliard Davidson on Tuesday, Aug. 30, in their OCC-Central opener.

"The girls are anxious to start the season," Schmidt said last week. "I believe we are all on the same page in knowing that this year is a rebuilding year. Our goal is to stick together as one unit and persevere through the rough times and cherish the good times."

Westland didn't lose any players to graduation.

Back is junior outside hitter Stephanie Mitchell, who was honorable mention all-OCC-Central last season.

Senior outside hitter Malaney Nicholson and senior right side hitter Brittany Starner also have returned.

Middle hitter Danielle White is the other senior.

Sophomore Erika Moore, who played varsity last season, will be the setter.

Juniors Bianca Anderson (middle hitter), Hannah Overturf (libero) and Selena Sanchez (defensive specialist) and sophomore Alison Sammons (outside hitter) also are expected to contribute.

Last season, Westland was last in the OCC-Central behind Dublin Coffman (14-0), Upper Arlington (12-2), Thomas Worthington and Worthington Kilbourne (9-5), Central Crossing (6-8), Davidson (4-10) and Hilliard Darby (2-12).

Schmidt hopes her team can begin to rise in the standings.

"We can only go up, and I just refuse to go 0-19 this year," Schmidt said.

Schmidt is a 2005 graduate of Central Crossing and 2009 graduate of Wilmington College. She played setter at both schools.

She was the freshman coach at Ready the past two seasons.

Schmidt also has coached at the national level for Elite Volleyball Training Center in Plain City.

•The cross country teams return just two runners, so fifth-year coach Josh Barkeloo is looking to sophomores and freshmen for contributions.

The Cougars, who opened Aug. 27 in the Pickerington Classic at Pickerington North, will compete in the Canal Winchester Invitational on Wednesday, Aug. 31.

For the boys, junior Sean Tho is the lone returnee. He was the team's third runner last season, behind 2011 graduates Ben Warner and Abdi Omer, and is looking to improve a personal-best time of 20 minutes, 20 seconds from last season's London Invitational.

Other runners are seniors Jake Jarrell and Luke Young, junior Ryan Weber, sophomore Kurt Guffey and freshman Andrew Ritchie.

Senior Moni Neri, the lone girls returnee, is looking to better her personal best of 23:20 recorded last season in the McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial. Like Tho, Neri was a first-year runner last fall.

"Moni has put in an insane amount of miles this summer, so I am looking for some pretty good things out of her," Barkeloo said.

Barkeloo expects sophomores Haylee Brown and Lindsay Vachon and freshman Heidi Paxson to make an impact.

Senior Jessie Baker is a first-year runner.

"We're a young team, so we're going to see some inexperience, and usually when you have a kid out there who has been running for three or four years they know every twist and turn of each course," Barkeloo said.

"It kind of turns into an advantage. They know how to pace themselves throughout a 5K. So I expect to see my two returning runners to take on a leadership role to help out the new guys and girls."

Last season, the boys team finished eighth (250) behind first-place Coffman (25) in the OCC-Central meet and 12th (383) behind first-place New Albany (42) in the Division I, district 2 meet. The girls didn't have enough runners for a team score in either meet.

"We're trying to build a foundation for the future, especially with our freshmen and sophomores because in the next couple of years they're going to be the heart and soul of the team," Barkeloo said.