Hartley Roundup: Run to regional bodes well for volleyball team

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Ella Brandewie hugs Colleen Sweeney (11) as Lauren Johnson (25) and Kaylee Musick (right) race to join in after Hartley took a two sets to one lead in a Division II regional semifinal Nov. 5 at Lexington. The Hawks ended up losing to Gates Mills Gilmour Academy in five sets.

Considering his team was in the middle of a two-week quarantine during the Division II district tournament drawing Oct. 11, Hartley girls volleyball coach Mike Rahe figured the Hawks’ optimal postseason path involved avoiding the same bracket as the top two seeds.

Top-seeded and eventual district champion Jonathan Alder and second-seeded Sparta Highland each opted for the bracket where the winner would face a champion from the East District.

That left the third-seeded Hawks an easier road to the regional but knowing that one of their potential opponents if they got to that level would be the nation’s 15th-ranked team, Gates Mills Gilmour Academy.

That’s exactly what took place, with Hartley and Gilmour both winning district titles, and the Hawks ended their season giving the Lancers all they could handle in a regional semifinal.

With a 25-18, 23-25, 24-26, 25-15, 15-8 loss to Gilmour on Nov. 5 at Lexington, the Hawks finished 15-3 overall.

Both Gilmour and Watterson — which beat Hartley twice during the regular season — made the state tournament, with the Eagles competing in Division I.

“Taking (the state’s) No. 1 (ranked team) Gilmour to five sets was huge and hopefully it’ll pay dividends the next two years,” Rahe said. “After having two weeks off, I didn’t want to have to play Highland and Jonathan Alder back-to-back (in the district tournament). We figured we were going to see (Gilmour) anyway, so let’s go after them early rather than later. We had them down (two sets to one) but just had a tough time getting passes up to the setter to run our offense efficiently in the fourth and fifth sets. When you’ve got a ton of freshmen and sophomores, they tend to tighten up a little bit.”

The only seniors were setter Colleen Sweeney and defensive specialist Katie Heuser. Sweeney was among the team leaders in digs (132) and led in assists (415), while Heuser was among the team leaders in serves received (135).

The Hawks finished second (4-2) in the CCL behind Watterson (5-1).

“We had many ups and downs this season,” Sweeney said. “We were a young team, so we knew that it was going to be a struggle. We then had to quarantine for two weeks due to (COVID-19) and it felt like everything was stacked against us. We worked so hard in the gym when we got back from our break, which resulted in a district championship. We pushed the No. 15 team in the country to five sets. I’m so proud of the fight we had through all the adversity.”

Sweeney was named the district’s Player of the Year.

She and sophomore middle hitter Ella Brandewie, who finished with 183 kills and 49 blocks, were first-team all-league and all-district.

Sophomore outside hitter Jasmyn Crockett and junior libero Lauren Johnson were second-team all-league, with Johnson also earning second-team all-district honors and Crockett making honorable mention all-district.

Sophomores Alex Etienne (outside hitter/defensive specialist), Jocelyn Heuser (defensive specialist/libero), Katie McLane (middle hitter) and Caitlin O’Mally (defensive specialist/libero) and freshman Kaylee Musick (right-side hitter/setter) also were key players.

Juniors Maya Fleming (outside hitter/defensive specialist) and Bella Parker (defensive specialist) and sophomore Bella Chalfant (setter/right-side hitter) are others eligible to return.

While Sweeney is hoping to play collegiately, her replacement at setter likely will be Chalfant or Musick.

“With us being so young, it was really about getting everyone experience at a varsity level,” Sweeney said. “With our tough schedule, it really let everyone get that exposure. We have two very strong outsides and middles who are all sophomores, a right-side who is just a freshman and a strong back row, with our libero coming back for one more year. I expect them to have a pretty strong season next year.”

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Record: 15-3 overall

CCL standings: Watterson (5-1), Hartley (4-2), DeSales (2-3), Ready (0-5)

Seniors lost: Katie Heuser and Colleen Sweeney

Key returnees: Ella Brandewie, Jasmyn Crockett, Alex Etienne, Lauren Johnson, Katie McLane, Kaylee Musick and Caitlin O’Mally

Postseason: Defeated Bexley 25-12, 25-11, 25-8; def. London 25-10, 25-22, 25-17; def. Granville 25-21, 25-9, 25-8; lost to Gates Mills Gilmour Academy 25-18, 23-25, 24-26, 25-15, 15-8 in Division II regional semifinal