After winning just four games in 2017, the Hartley boys soccer team doubled its win total and reached a Division II district semifinal last season.

All indications, according to 12th-year coach Chris Kowalski, is that the improvement merely scratched the surface of what the Hawks could accomplish this fall.

His optimism is due partially to having 16 returning letterwinners, but also based on the players' mentality.

Hartley, which won five of its first seven games on its way to finishing 8-11 overall last fall, opened Aug. 16 with a 4-0 loss to Bexley.

"I'm proud of how hard this team works," said Kowalski, whose team has moved up to Division I this season. "We're filled with selfless leaders willing to sacrifice for one another and the team."

The top returnees are senior Carter Bjornson (winger/outside back) and juniors Ryan Hawk (winger) and Declan O'Brien (center midfielder).

O'Brien was named first-team all-league and Bjornson and Hawk both made the second team last season as Hartley went 2-2 in the CCL to finish third behind St. Charles (4-0) and DeSales (3-1).

The Hawks open league play Sept. 3 at home against Ready.

Senior Sean Price is a three-year key contributor at defender who also could see time at forward and senior Caleb Franz is in his third season at goalkeeper.

The other seniors are Matthew Nash (defender), C.J. Parnell (outside back), Myles Smith (defender), Jason Steward (forward), Juston Steward (winger) and Aaron Vina (center back).

Junior Riley Sheehan (center back/center midfielder) and sophomore Gabe Donaghy (winger/outside back) also were key players last season.

Other returnees are juniors Nahom Chegen (center midfielder) and Ako Nwokolo (forward/winger) and sophomores Gabe Clark (winger), Tony Epstein (center midfielder), Alex Gabriel (center midfielder), Emmett Gillies (defender/goalie), Sam Roehrenbeck (forward) and Jacob Scurlock (outside back/center back).

Freshman Colin Callahan (forward/winger) should be a contributor as well.

Also on the team is sophomore Kieran McJoynt-Griffith (winger).

"We have a veteran team with exciting new additions to the varsity level," Kowalski said. "I expect us to be a very competitive team. A lot of players earned valuable tournament experience last season that will be crucial to trying to make some noise in Division I this year."

Girls soccer team hopes to score more

During last year's regular season, the girls soccer team scored just nine goals and won two games.

The Hawks broke through with an 8-0 victory over Hamilton Township to open the Division I district tournament before losing 6-0 to Watterson in a second-round game to finish 3-13-1 overall.

Hartley's other wins came against Columbus School for Girls (1-0) and Ready (3-0).

The Hawks opened Aug. 16 with a 6-0 win over Worthington Christian and begin CCL action Sept. 12 at home against Ready.

"Last year, we had some hard times finding offense," third-year coach Andrew Jahahn said. "We've just got to put it in the back of the net. The thing about this team is that we had eight freshmen play and earn letters last year, so we probably took some lumps, but they learned a lot. All those kids are contributors for the most part this year, so I really feel like our starting 11 is skilled and talented and we're even building some depth."

Seniors Helena Donaghy (center midfielder) and Caroline Leatherman (center defensive midfielder) and sophomore Karli Barringer (defender) are the top returnees.

Leatherman was first-team all-league last season along with 2019 graduates Meghan Ballinger and Grace Gill and Barringer and Donaghy both were second-team all-league as Hartley went 2-2 in the CCL to finish third behind Watterson (4-0) and DeSales (3-1).

The other seniors are Sophia Cegledy (goalie), Lauren Sauer (forward), Emily Valin (midfielder) and Kaelyn Walther (defender).

Also at goalie is junior Emily Sanzone, who started much of last season.

Sophomores Emily Knox and Ellie Morrow and freshman Morgan Donnelly are other defenders, while junior Maddy Smith is at right midfielder and sophomore Olivia Ralston is at center midfielder.

Junior Emily Moore and sophomore Sydney Collins are key forwards.

"We're moving the ball a lot better, possessing it better than we did," Jahahn said. "The past two years, we were so direct with our play and this team is capable of a lot of build-up play. We're Division I again, so I know that's a challenge, but I'm really excited with this squad and what they can do. We don't have an easy schedule, but it will prep us for a difficult postseason."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Hartley cross country, field hockey, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:

CROSS COUNTRY

Aug. 24 -- Newark Catholic Invitational at Bryn Du Mansion

FIELD HOCKEY

*Aug. 26 -- At Bexley

*Aug. 28 -- Home vs. Granville

GIRLS GOLF

Aug. 22 -- DeSales at Turnberry

Aug. 27 -- Worthington Christian at Jefferson

BOYS SOCCER

Aug. 22 -- Home vs. Bloom-Carroll

Aug. 27 -- At Independence

GIRLS SOCCER

Aug. 22 -- At Thomas Worthington

Aug. 27 -- Home vs. Licking Heights

GIRLS TENNIS

Aug. 24 -- Teays Valley Invitational

Aug. 26 -- At Wellington

Aug. 27 -- Home vs. Grandview

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Aug. 26 -- Home vs. Teays Valley

*League contest