With underclassmen filling numerous key roles a season ago, the Hartley boys soccer team was shut out in five of its final nine games, winning just two of those contests.
A more experienced unit -- one that has shown coach Chris Kowalski that it has a "willingness to be coached" -- has the Hawks optimistic that they can avoid a late-season lull this fall.
"At this point in the season, we are still forming our identity as a team," Kowalski said. "As a team, we need to work on being competitive on a nightly basis, especially with the back half of our schedule so that we're prepared for the (Division I district) tournament while giving us a chance to compete for the CCL title."
Hartley beat Madison Christian 6-2 on Sept. 12 and was 4-4 overall and 1-0 in the league before facing DeSales on Sept. 17.
The Hawks play host to defending Division I district champion St. Charles on Tuesday, Sept. 24, and still have challenging games remaining Oct. 1 at Watterson and Oct. 10 at home against Worthington Christian.
Last season, Hartley beat the Eagles 1-0 and lost to the Warriors 2-0.
Junior midfielder Nahom Chegen has led the Hawks in goals and assists, according to Kowalski, with sophomore defender Emmett Gillies and senior goalkeeper Caleb Franz leading the defense.
"We need to improve on eliminating our mistakes so we can take our game to the opponent," Kowalski said. "I'm confident this group of young men will do everything they can so that we are playing our best soccer in October."
Girls water polo team building depth
During the offseason, members of the girls water polo club program asked coach Tony Phillips and his staff to begin conditioning for the season earlier than usual.
The program, which is in its sixth season, has a seven-member senior class.
"It was great to see them eager to go," Phillips said. "Last season we did well just to field enough players for a team, but this year we have a bit more depth so that should help us rotate fresh legs in more frequently."
Hartley, whose best state tournament finish was sixth in 2017, was 4-7 after going 0-3 into the Ohio Cup held Sept. 14 and 15 at Thomas Worthington. The Hawks will compete in the Cincinnati Sycamore Invitational on Sept. 21.
Senior Olivia Haeger is the goalkeeper. The other seniors are Elyse Fox, Mia Phillips, Sidney Poulos, Grace Sammler, Allie Sisson and Ellie Tanner.
Others in the program include juniors Ava Fortney and Emma Simone and freshmen Angelia Keels and Cecelia Tanner.
"Mia was our leading scorer last season," Phillips said of his daughter. "She's been pretty key in keeping our games close thus far. Ellie Tanner, Emma Simone, Allie Sisson, Grace Sammler, Cece Tanner and Emma Simone played in the offseason. Elyse Fox and Sidney Poulos have also seen their share of minutes. Ava and Angelina are both first-year players but are picking it up quickly."
Golf teams taking steps forward
The boys golf team will compete in the CCL postseason tournament Sunday, Sept. 22, at Denison Golf Club.
The Hawks, who are 2-2 in the CCL, then will begin the Division II postseason with a sectional Tuesday, Sept. 24, at Oakhaven or Sept. 26 at Turnberry.
Senior Andrew Inthavongsone put together a recent stretch in which he scored in the 70s in three of four 18-hole events, coach David Liskowiak said. Sophomores Drew Navarro and Cameron Casto also have been key contributors.
"The season is progressing well," Liskowiak said. "Our scores have come down quite a bit since the beginning of the season, including a season-low 319 at the Heath Invitational (Aug. 16) at Burning Tree. The team is full of high-character, tough kids who put in maximum effort every time they play."
The girls team will compete in its CCL postseason tournament Oct. 5 at NorthStar.
Hartley begins the Division I postseason with a sectional Oct. 1 at Mentel Memorial or Royal American or Oct. 2 at Blacklick Woods.
Juniors Nicole Deline and Caroline Berger have led the way, according to coach Kerry Ford.
"(Deline and Berger) are driving hard towards season-ending tournaments," Ford said. "We continually improve, which is what I was looking for as we move into next year. I want to see continued improvement in course management so the end result will show in our scores. This is a positive, hard-working group and our future looks good."
Below are the coming schedules for the Hartley cross country, field hockey, boys golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 21 -- Bob Reall Invitational at Lancaster
Sept. 24 -- Fredericktown Invitational
*Sept. 23 -- Home vs. Lancaster
*Sept. 25 -- Home vs. Columbus Academy
Sept. 21 -- Watterson Invitational at Clover Valley
Sept. 22 -- CCL postseason at Denison Golf Club
Sept. 21 -- Home vs. Heath
*Sept. 24 -- Home vs. St. Charles
*Sept. 19 -- At DeSales
Sept. 24 -- At Bexley
Sept. 19 -- Home vs. Grove City
Sept. 25 -- Home vs. Central Crossing
*Sept. 19 -- Home vs. DeSales
Sept. 21 -- Circleville Invitational
Sept. 23 -- At Canal Winchester