Julie Kirby takes over the Clinton-Massie girls tennis program, following Lynn Deatherage’s retirement after six successful season on Lebanon Road.
Kirby inherits a team coming off a great season but loses five starters.
The Lady Falcons were 15-2 in 2019 and finished second to Wilmington in the league standings.
Gone are graduates and first team All-SBAAC players Nina Lazic (first singles), Kari Cragwall and Liza Duncan (first doubles), Paige Wood (second doubles) and Raelee Schulz (second singles).
Elizabeth Mason is the lone returning regular player from 2019. She was second team All-SBAAC at third singles. Mason and Vanessa Asher have taken leadership of the team, Kirby said.
Given that tennis is an individual sport, Kirby said her inexperienced team has come together to support one another.
“Where we need to improve is experience,” she said. “I love this team’s spirit. They are very optimisti about what is to come.”
The Blanchester girls tennis team show four returning first team All-SBAAC players on its roster.
Head coach Matt Sexton, in his 15th season with the program at BHS, is looking to make it back-to-back league championships and 11 titles in the last 13 seasons. The Ladycats were 7-1 in the league last year and earned National Division top honors.
Sexton has won 80 of 115 SBAAC National Division matches with Blanchester. He is assisted by Michael Sexton.
Six starters return so BHS should be the prime contender for league hardware. Kayla Allen, a two-time first team All-SBAAC player and team captain, has graduated and leaves a big hole to fill at first singles.
“We need experience,” said Sexton. “We will have a new first singles player and that is a transition. We also will have players at doubles likely in their first or second seasons playing tennis. At this point, we just need competition.”
Maddy Coyle, Annie Trovillo and Grace Irwin are returning first teamers and have taken a leadership role on the squad this season, Sexton said.
Taylor Bradley is the other first-team returning player. Newcomers to note are Rianna Mueller, Leah Boegeman, Abbey Irwin and Gracie Kaehler.
Sexton said he loves the work ethic of his squad, which is as deep in singles players as it has been in a long time, he added.
“I’m excited to see who steps up,” he said. “This is also going to be a year where people are going to get opportunities, whether it is because of illness or whatever. As long as we stay healthy, which is a concern this year more than most, I think we should have a lot of success.
An undefeated SBAAC American Division season will be difficult to match in 2020 for the Wilmington High School tennis team.
“If we can keep everyone healthy, stay focused on the fundamentals and are able to adjust well to the many changes we face, we can be competitive,” ninth-year WHS coach Doug Cooper said. “So far we are off to a very good start, in part because of the rich legacy of positivity and competitiveness given to us by last year’s seniors.”
WHS was 15-5 overall and 10-0 in the American last season. The title is the third in Cooper’s tenure, and second straight in the SBAAC. Keith Gilbert is the reserve coach and Steve Reed is a program assistant.
There are four returning starters, led by Claire Burns wh owas the SBAAC player of the year in 2019. Jenna Taylor and Emilee Pham were first team All-SBAAC and Gracie Conger was second team.
Cooper said Emma Lewis and Chandni Sharma are newcomers to note in 2020.
The top losses from a year ago are Allie Kees (first team all-league and second in career wins at WHS), Josie Nichols (first team), Annie Osborn and Rachel Barker.
Pham is the leader of the team, Cooper said, noting her athleticism, academic accomplishments, competitive drive, and living example of personal integrity.
”I like the extremely positive attitude and sense of togetherness this team exhibits every time we’re together,” Cooper said. “Even throughout two-a-days they continue to exude positivity and a willingness to complete and improve. The players constantly pick each other up and look after each other. “
Doug Stehlin has just one player returning from last year’s squad, Holly Bernard.
Six of the seven players from 2019 have graduated, so Stehlin will continue to recruit talent for the 2020 season.
“We have picked up two new players and continue trying to get more,” he said. “Our team is going to be young and inexperienced but hopefully they will learn how to play tennis and like it enough to come back next year and continue to get better.”
Myah Anteck and Emmy Chambliss are the newcomers to note, Stehlin said.