Having returned minimal experience following last year's Division II state runner-up finish, the Hartley girls volleyball team understood the challenge that it was facing this season.
The only key seniors were back-row specialists Aiva Smith and Bealize Kelley and the Hawks had a trio of freshmen playing key roles, but that didn't keep them from ending their season with more hardware.
Hartley received a Division I district runner-up trophy Oct. 26 at Whitehall after losing to second-seeded DeSales 25-13, 25-20, 25-17 in a district final.
"We do what we can with what we've got and we love the position we're in," coach Mike Rahe said. "You lose six seniors, including five that were 97 percent of your offense, and you replace them with three freshmen that are probably 75 percent of our offense this year. I told them the other day, 'You're not freshmen anymore.' This is an expectation that Hartley has when we play volleyball: to get to the district finals and compete."
The eighth-seeded Hawks beat 13th-seeded Worthington Kilbourne 25-21, 25-15, 21-25, 25-20 in a district semifinal Oct. 22 at Whitehall before losing to the Stallions to finish 21-6 overall.
Hartley and DeSales split their CCL matches during the regular season, with the Stallions finishing first in the league at 5-1. Watterson was runner-up at 4-2 and Hartley went 3-3 to place third.
Smith, juniors Colleen Sweeney (setter/right-side hitter) and Katie Heuser (outside hitter/middle hitter) and sophomore Lauren Johnson (defensive specialist) were the only other key returnees from last season, when Hartley lost to Parma Heights Holy Name 25-22, 25-16, 18-25, 16-25, 15-6 in the state final.
Rahe is expecting the Hawks to drop back down to Division II in future years.
"It feels pretty good (to reach a district final)," Sweeney said. "We have a lot to prove this year because we're so young. This is a good experience.
"At the beginning of the season, it was a little rough, especially our first scrimmage was not good, so I'd never have expected us to be here."
Freshman Ella Brandewie, a 6-foot-3 middle hitter who already has scholarship offers from Michigan, Ohio State, North Carolina, Notre Dame and Illinois, was the team's leader in kills.
The other key freshmen were Jasmyn Crockett (outside hitter/right-side hitter), Jocelyn Heuser (defensive specialist/libero) and 6-1 Kate McLane (middle hitter/right-side hitter).
Others eligible to return include juniors Ella Coakley (right-side hitter/outside hitter) and Izzy Russo (defensive specialist/libero), sophomores Maya Fleming (outside hitter/right-side hitter) and Riley Mann (middle hitter/right-side hitter) and freshman Bella Chalfant (setter/right-side hitter).
"Last year when they went to state, it was really cool because I got to watch them," Brandewie said. "It's cool to be a part of the chemistry and contribute."
Orndoff finishes season at regional
Senior Chase Orndoff of the boys cross country team closed the season by placing 53rd (17 minutes, 35.8 seconds) of 169 runners in the Division II regional meet Oct. 26 at Pickerington North.
He had qualified for regional by finishing 14th (17:22.2) in the district 2 meet Oct. 19 at Hilliard Darby.
Also at district, junior Luke Vautour was 18th (17:33.2) as Hartley finished seventh (166 points) of 12 teams behind champion Heath (35). The top four teams and top 16 individuals advanced to regional.
"Me and another teammate of mine, Luke Vautour, I thought neither of us or both of us would make it (to regional), but only I made it," Orndoff said. "It wasn't necessarily my best run, but I think I ran smart (at district). (The regional race) is considered to be a slow race."
Of the Hawks' seven district competitors, Orndoff was one of three seniors along with Adam Dinovo and Michael Petrella.
At the CCL meet Oct. 12 at Westerville Recreation Center, Vautour finished third (17:06.08) and Orndoff was fifth (17:22.12).
Juniors Luke Brandewie and Eayuel Gebrtsadik and sophomore Simon Sybert also were key runners. Brandewie was the team's No. 3 runner in most races.
"I ran 17:06 in my second race of this season, but then I got sick in the middle of the season and my times went down," Orndoff said. "Every time I was just about to get better, I'd run hard and it would make it worse. The (Erin Nance Fall Distance Classic on Sept. 28 at London Country Club) was the first race I ran that I felt better.
"I (began competing in cross country) in middle school because my mom made me and I didn't really like it that much, but then I got to high school and made a lot of friends on the team and started to actually enjoy the sport. I've done it ever since then."
The girls team's season ended at the Division II district meet Oct. 19 at Darby, where it finished eighth (263) of 18 teams behind champion Granville (43).
Sophomore Rebecca Tepper led the Hawks, finishing 28th (20:41.7) as the top six teams and top 24 individuals advanced to regional.
Other key runners for Hartley were juniors Pailyn Groene, Ellie Kitsmiller, Megan Luallen and Anna Woods and freshmen Delaney McKay and Jackie Radous.