Bethel tennis comes out of the gate swinging a hot racquet

The Bethel-Tate girls’ tennis team is lighting the court on fire and torching opponents through the first major stretch of tennis of the young 2012 season.

“We’re 4-0 right now and this past week we won the conference tournament at Blanchester,” head coach Kurt Charlton said. “We won overwhelmingly as a team, but our first singles player, Clare Schaljo also won the singles bracket.”

The Lady Tigers made an obvious statement at the first Southern Buckeye Tournament of the season with their stellar play in both the singles bracket and the doubles bracket.

In singles, the Lady Tigers three players, Schaljo, Melissa McMullen and Mackenzie Rinehart all reached the quarterfinals before they were pitted against one another. The eventual champion, Schaljo, took out her teammate McMullen 6-1, 6-3 to knock her out of the tournament.

Rinehart faced Batavia No. 1 Mary Ostigny in the semifinals and fell in a hard-fought three set match 6-0, 6-7 (5), 6-1.

Perhaps a credit to her teammate wearing down Ostigny, Schaljo took the singles title in straight sets, 6-1, 6-3.

On the doubles side of things, Sarah Benjamin and Madison White reached the semi-finals before falling to the New Richmond pair of Alex White and Sarah Jones. Benjamin and White did win their third place match, however.

The other doubles team of Hannah Wallace and Chloe Henderson is the only pair with a senior and sophomore playing together. Wallace is a four-year player, but Henderson is only a sophomore. They lost in the second round to the eventual winning Blanchester pair of Hanna Allen and Casidy Jennett.

Aside from the conference tournament that kicked off the season, the Lady Tigers have taken their first steps toward an undefeated season winning their first four head-to-head matches against some of the league’s stiffest competition.

“We’ve already beaten New Richmond, Amelia and Western Brown,” Charlton said. “Those were are three big rivals heading into the year, so since we’ve beaten them once, we know what we’re capable of.”

What the Lady Tigers are capable of a special season, the likes of which Charlton doesn’t know has even happened at Bethel.

“I talked to the girls earlier this week without trying to jinx it,” he said. “I told them we have a great chance to go undefeated this year and I don’t know if that’s been done at Bethel. If it were to happen, this would be the year and they would be the team. They haven’t let me down so far.”

However, with those three big matches bunched together at the beginning of the season, they won’t face the big three teams that worried them coming into the year, which Charlton said, can be dangerous.

“It’s tough, this part of the season,” he said. “We’ve already had success and in the back of their minds they know they can beat anyone. But it can be hard to stay motivated. We need our maturity to kick in and make sure we play at our level and not drop to some teams that aren’t as competitive with us. We need to play every match like it matters.”

Charlton is hoping that the advantage of having six of his starting seven players as seniors will allow them to avoid a common pitfall that may come with inexperience.

The Lady Tigers enter a stretch of five matches in three weeks that are crucial to keeping their record unscathed before meeting Western Brown, New Richmond and Amelia again during the last two weeks of September.

The stars seem to be aligning for the Lady Tigers, but Charlton hopes that they can keep taking it one match at a time and take care of business.