Westland Roundup: Volleyball team plans to elevate play
According to fourth-year coach Nicole Zumpano and her players, the Westland girls volleyball team entered the season with more talent than in the past and better chemistry.
Led by several returnees, Zumpano hopes the Cougars can improve on last year's finish of 6-16 overall and 0-10 in the OCC-Central Division.
"The talent that we have is probably the best that I've seen since I've been at Westland," Zumpano said. "I'm really excited for the season."
The Cougars are led by junior setter Kenadee Winters, who was named first-team all-league last season after leading the team with 322 assists.
Junior outside hitter Alaina Russell led the team with 101 kills and was honorable mention all-league.
Also returning is outside hitter Ashley DuMelle, who is one of three seniors on the roster.
"We're really hustling," DuMelle said. "We're a really good team together. We all just mesh and are friends on and off the court, which is most important. We've been working our butts off at practice to be the best we can against the harder teams that we face."
Also back are senior Sofia Rodriguez (defensive specialist), juniors Rylea Bott (middle hitter), Olivia Fernandez (right-side hitter/outside hitter) and Kaci Roush (libero) and sophomore Kiera Bonds (middle hitter).
Other players are senior Lyhea Correa (right-side hitter), junior Delaney Moore (setter) and sophomore Morgan Spires (defensive specialist/setter).
"I just want us to do more as a team," Zumpano said. "I want us to play selfless, really come together and start making a name for ourselves."
Westland opened Aug. 22 by losing at Marysville 24-26, 25-21, 25-21, 25-23 in a non-league match. The teams had matched up the previous eight seasons in the OCC-Central.
"It was a disappointing story against Marysville," Zumpano said. "It was tied at one (game apiece) and the team kind of fell apart and lost 3-1."
Westland bounced back to defeat visiting Franklin Heights 25-7, 25-6, 25-9 on Aug. 25.
The Cougars, who were 1-1 before playing Harvest Prep on Aug. 27, open OCC-Ohio play Thursday, Sept. 3, against visiting Groveport.
The other teams in the OCC-Ohio are Gahanna, Grove City, New Albany, Pickerington North and Westerville Central.
"Pick North and Gahanna are always elite teams," Zumpano said. "Westerville Central was once a powerhouse, but I'm not too familiar with them now. It's nice to establish a little bit of a rivalry with Grove City. That's going to be a fun two matches this year."
Football team to begin league play
The football team begins play in the new-look OCC-Ohio when it faces Gahanna on Friday, Sept. 4, at home.
The Cougars opened Aug. 28 at Groveport, and the Lions opened that night against Reynoldsburg.
Westland and Gahanna previously competed in the OCC-Ohio, with the Lions winning the last meeting 58-0 in 2007. The Cougars moved to the OCC-Central in 2008.
Both teams feature new quarterbacks.
Junior Jovaan Cooper earned the starting position in the preseason and will direct Westland's spread offense.
After missing time last fall with a shoulder injury, senior Trey Burger began this season as the Lions' starting quarterback.
Gahanna features depth at wide receiver. Junior Brendon Raymond had 12 receptions for 255 yards and three touchdowns last season.
Westland coach Rick Rios was pleased with his team's progress entering the opener.
"The team is getting better," he said. "We did some good things in our scrimmage (against Chillicothe on Aug. 21) in all three phases, but still have a long way to go."
At a glance
FOOTBALL -- WEEK 2
GAHANNA at WESTLAND
*When: 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4
*Last meeting: 2007, Gahanna 58-0
*Gahanna to date: Played Reynolds-burg on Aug. 28
*Westland to date: Played Groveport on Aug. 28
*Top Lions: Ricky Alli (RB/LB), Tommy Bailey (OL/DL), Kane Baker (WR/DB), Ronald Blackman (RB/DB), Trey Burger (QB), Mondra Curry (RB/LB), Mykohl Martin (OL/DL), Brendon Raymond (WR/DB) and Jaden Yates (RB/LB)
*Top Cougars: Colton Bogle (OL), Jovaan Cooper (QB), Zane Gibbs-Aguon (WR), Payton Hayes (OL/DL), Hayden Hughes (OL/DL), Jakob Hurley (LB), Jack Little (WR), Jenell Matia (WR), Tim Smith (RB/DB) and Seth Westmoreland (DB)
*Coach: Nicole Zumpano, fourth season
*Top players: Ashley DuMelle, Kaci Roush, Alaina Russell and Kenadee Winters
*Key losses: Mackenzie Burk, Kalista Prak and Averi Sites
*Last season: 6-16 overall
*2019 OCC-Central standings: Dublin Coffman (10-0), Upper Arlington (8-2), Hilliard Davidson (5-5), Marysville (4-6), Central Crossing (3-7), Westland (0-10)
*2019 postseason: Lost to Lancaster 25-14, 25-9, 25-12 in first round of Division I district tournament