Westland High School boys soccer coach Jamie Dato believes his team has the potential to earn its first winning season in his three years with the program.
After finishing 8-8-1 in Dato's first season in 2016, the Cougars went 8-9 overall last year.
"Year one they were individuals and played pickup soccer. Now we're more disciplined (and playing) more team soccer," Dato said. "The goal every year is to be better by game 16 than we were game one. ... We want to have more wins and ties than losses."
Westland kicked off the season on a positive note with a 6-0 win over Franklin Heights on Aug. 21. Junior midfielder Bawi Lian led the Cougars with three goals, while senior midfielders Dalmar Ali and Juan Martinez and junior midfielder Van Uk each scored one.
Junior goalkeeper Trent Beach has replaced 2018 graduate Armando Mendez-Raya, who had 150 saves last season.
"We're going to do pretty well and we're getting better each year," Martinez said. "Each year we're learning more and more from coach. He's getting the team better as we progress throughout the year."
Along with Lian and Martinez, other returnees are seniors Mesiah Bawi (midfielder), Landen Bruna (defender) and Jaime Martinez (midfielder) and juniors Tei Tu Bawi (defender) and Luis Santos (midfielder).
"I want us to have a winning record," Bawi said. "We want to keep working on our teamwork so we can improve."
Other players are seniors Abdi Noor (forward), Thawng Hu (defender), Carmelo Marian (midfielder) and Axel Rodriguez (forward) and juniors Junior Garcia (defender), Kenny Garcia (midfielder), Erik Martinez (defender), Abraham Perez (midfielder), Manny Rojas (defender) and Abdi Suleiman (midfielder).
"I like the returning group," Dato said. "It's the deepest team from one to 19 skill-wise. I can put in 18 and 19 and not be worried, but it's the most inexperienced varsity team with only (seven) guys playing last year. They have a lot to learn as far as speed of the game and physicality."
The Cougars open OCC-Central Division play Sept. 13 at Marysville. Last season, they went 1-4 in the league to finish fifth behind champion Dublin Coffman (4-0-1).
Girls soccer team hopes to improve
Second-year girls soccer coach Mike Schwarten is hoping his team can improve on last season's 2-15 finish.
"We're improving a lot," he said. "They're becoming much more of a family and sisters than they were last year. We have a lot less chemistry issues than we had last year. We're moving forward with parents. We have a lot of parents who have been helping out."
The Cougars opened Aug. 21 with a 10-0 loss at Caledonia River Valley.
The top returnee is senior forward/midfielder Shelbey Barnhill, who led the team with nine goals last season and was first-team all-league.
Also back are seniors Aley-sha Martinez-Guerrero (midfielder/defender), Bailey Monhollen (goalie) and Arlethet Ventura (midfielder/forward), juniors Mackenzie Hall (defender), Jessica Hurley (defender) and Laura Ornelas (midfielder/defender) and sophomores Jennifer Guerra (midfielder) and Heaven Manbevers (defender).
Other players are seniors Alison Falcon (midfielder/forward) and Litzy Lopez (midfielder), sophomores Andrea Lopez-Garcia (midfielder), Lisette Sevilla-Robles (midfielder) and Iris Ventura Pablo (defender/midfielder) and freshmen Alex Carlton (defender), Bella Garner (forward), Catalina Gesling (defender) and Becky Paul (goalie).
Last season, Westland went 0-5 in the OCC-Central to finish sixth behind champion Coffman (3-0-2). The Cougars open league play Sept. 13 against Marysville.
Volleyball coach sees potential
Girls volleyball coach Nicole Zumpano entered her second season confident her team can improve on last year's 3-20 record.
"There's a lot of potential with the girls that we have this year," she said. "I feel that we're already better than we were (at) this time last year."
The Cougars opened Aug. 21 with a 25-14, 25-14, 25-11 loss to visiting Pickerington North.
The top returnees are senior setter Cameron Phaunef and senior defensive specialist Brooklyn Granato. Phaunef had 238 assists last season, and Granato had 194 digs.
Other returnees are seniors Maddie Green (outside hitter), Haley Thompson (right-side hitter) and Hannah Walls (outside hitter) and junior Kalista Prak (defensive specialist).
Other players are seniors Becky Grover (defensive specialist), Carlie Henry (middle hitter) and Alyana Neal (right-side hitter/defensive specialist) and sophomore Ashley DuMelle (middle hitter). DuMelle is a transfer from Ready.
Last season, Westland went 1-9 in the OCC-Central to tie Central Crossing for fifth behind champion Coffman (10-0). The Cougars open league play Sept. 4 at Marysville.
"They are tough opponents and we know we have a tough schedule as far as the OCC is concerned, but I feel that we are going to show better than we did last year," Zumpano said.
Westland is looking to replace 2018 graduate Taylor Goett, an outside hitter who was a three-year starter and now is playing at Alderson Broaddus University. She led the Cougars in kills last season with 123.
Football team to face Red Devils
After opening Aug. 24 against Licking Heights, the football team will play host to Marion-Franklin on Friday, Aug. 31.
The Red Devils opened Aug. 24 against Central Crossing. They advanced to the Division III, Region 11 playoffs last season, losing to Dresden Tri-Valley 27-18 in the first round to finish 8-3, and have had a winning record in 13 of the past 14 seasons.
Westland is seeking its first winning season since 2006 when it finished 7-4, losing to Upper Arlington 28-21 in the first round of the Division I, Region 3 playoffs.
The Cougars are led by senior quarterback DeShawn Evans, who missed most of last season with a broken right ankle sustained in a 41-28 loss against Franklin Heights in Week 4.
Senior Manuel Mickens and junior Peterson Iresne should be featured running backs, and senior Daunte Campbell is a key target at wide receiver.
Marion-Franklin should be led by senior quarterback Ke'Zion Brown, who passed for 1,798 yards and 23 touchdowns last season.
Senior running back Davion Upchurch has stepped in for junior Maleek McIntosh, who suffered a leg injury in a 7-on-7 scrimmage at Hilliard Davidson in mid-July and likely is out for the season.
Girls tennis team hopes to progress
Led by 10th-year coach Shaela Hinckley, the girls tennis team opened OCC-Central play Aug. 23 against Marysville.
The Cougars lost to Gran-ville 5-0 on Aug. 15 and Worth-ington Kilbourne 4-1 on Aug. 22.
Against Kilbourne, seniors Cloey Elliott and Elyson Pui won 6-2, 7-5 at second doubles.
Junior Katie Murray is playing first singles, with junior Anais Fernandez at second singles and junior Anna Ebert at third singles.
Juniors Samantha Khuon and Genesis Perez-Hernandez have played first doubles.
Other players are sophomore Kacey Flanagan and freshman Bella Corona.
Last season, the Cougars went 0-5 in the league to finish sixth behind champion Coffman (5-0).
Aug. 21 -- vs. Franklin Heights
Aug. 23 -- vs. Independence
Aug. 28 -- at Canal Winchester
Aug. 30 -- at Briggs
Sept. 4 -- at Grove City
Sept. 6 -- at Gahanna
Sept. 11 -- vs. Reynoldsburg
*Sept. 13 -- at Marysville
*Sept. 18 -- vs. Dublin Coffman
*Sept. 25 -- at Upper Arlington
Sept. 27 -- vs. Westerville South
*Oct. 2 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
Oct. 4 -- vs. Lancaster
*Oct. 9 -- at Central Crossing
Oct. 11 -- at Pickerington Central
Oct. 13 -- at Jonathan Alder
Aug. 21 -- at Caledonia River Valley
Aug. 23 -- at Groveport
Aug. 28 -- vs. Canal Winchester
Aug. 30 -- vs. Whetstone
Sept. 1 -- at Marion Harding
Sept. 4 -- vs. Grove City
Sept. 6 -- at Galion
*Sept. 13 -- vs. Marysville
Sept. 15 -- at Liberty Union
Sept. 18 -- at Heath
*Sept. 20 -- at Dublin Coffman
*Sept. 25 -- vs. Upper Arlington
*Oct. 2 -- at Hilliard Davidson
Oct. 6 -- vs. Whitehall
*Oct. 9 -- vs. Central Crossing
Oct. 11 -- at Franklin Heights
Aug. 15 -- at Granville
Aug. 18 -- SWCS tournament at Grove City
Aug. 22 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne
*Aug. 23 -- at Marysville
Aug. 25 -- Teays Valley Invitational
Aug. 27 -- at Hilliard Darby
*Aug. 28 -- vs. Dublin Coffman
*Aug. 30 -- at Upper Arlington
*Sept. 4 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
Sept. 11 -- vs. Franklin Heights
Sept. 13 -- vs. Westerville South
Sept. 17 -- at Canal Winchester
Sept. 18 -- at Newark
Sept. 19 -- vs. Ready
Sept. 20 -- vs. Westerville North
Sept. 25 -- vs. Northland
Sept. 26 -- at Hamilton Township
Sept. 27 -- vs. Eastmoor Academy
Oct. 2 -- at Lancaster
Oct. 3 -- vs. Grandview
Aug. 21 -- vs. Pickerington North
Aug. 23 -- vs. Franklin Heights
Aug. 25 -- vs. Grandview
Aug. 28 -- at Canal Winchester
Aug. 30 -- at Grove City
*Sept. 4 -- at Marysville
*Sept. 6 -- vs. Dublin Coffman
Sept. 8 -- at Groveport
Sept. 11 -- at Worthington Christian
Sept. 12 -- at Marion Harding
*Sept. 13 -- at Upper Arlington
Sept. 15 -- at Briggs
Sept. 18 -- at Whitehall
*Sept. 20 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
*Sept. 25 -- at Central Crossing
Sept. 26 -- vs. Hilliard Darby
*Sept. 27 -- vs. Marysville
*Oct. 2 -- at Dublin Coffman
*Oct. 4 -- vs. Upper Arlington
*Oct. 9 -- at Hilliard Davidson
Oct. 10 -- vs. Bexley
*Oct. 11 -- vs. Central Crossing
Below are the coming schedules for the Westland cross country and boys golf teams:
Aug. 29 -- Canal Winchester Invitational
Sept. 1 -- Best of the South-West Invitational at home
Aug. 29 -- OCC-Central at Apple Valley