By Chris Chaney
The Clermont County girls tennis scene is making its way onwards and upwards heading into the 2013 season. A handful of good teams are reloading after 19 of the 22 conference All-Stars from Clermont County graduated from their respective schools.
The rebuilding for some programs will be less noticeable than others as a result of a strong core of returning players who are eager to jump into those spots vacated by their graduated teammates.
In the Southern Buckeye Conference, first-year head coach Betsy Weeks has an interesting task to undertake as she heads up the defending conference champions at Bethel-Tate.
“Chloe Henderson is going to be our first singles,” Weeks said. “She is our only veteran player. I’m expecting the most out of her. This is her third year playing, but she’s never played first singles.”
Henderson is going to be a junior and will be the lone Lady Tiger with any experience. Weeks said that she hasn’t seen how the rest of the team plays against their opponents, so she will have to wait and see to fill out her lineup.
Coming off of an undefeated season a year ago, the Lady Tigers will look to hold off some of their top competition, which includes Western Brown. Aside from the Lady Broncos, Bethel will have to deal with Clermont County foes on the American side of the conference, including Amelia, Goshen and New Richmond.
Fortunately for each team, all three rivals seem to be in similar boats as far as losing their top talent to graduation.
The lone exception appears to be the Lady Warriors who return their First Team All-SBC first singles player, Yanisa Robbins, as well as a handful of other experienced returners.
“Generally, we’re going to be inexperienced,” Goshen head coach Pete Patterson said. “But we have a very strong player (in Robbins) at first singles. We also have a returning singles player (Kari Horn) who will play second singles as well.
The Lady Warriors finished up 2012 in fourth place in the SBC-American with a 5-8 mark overall, but Patterson believes with the turnover in the conference that his team can compete for the top spot.
Autumn Stapleton and Amber Wolfe, both sophomores, played some doubles together last year and will return to action for Goshen this season as well.
Patterson said while they have six returning players, there’s not much experience beyond the top two of Robbins and Horn.
As for the how he would handicap the league, Patterson said he’s looking to get a better idea at the SBC Preview this weekend at Blanchester.
“I’m looking forward to see what is out there,” the coach said. “I want to see how we do in the preview. We might start out the season a little slow, but we should come on in the end of the year.”
In the National Division, much of the same turnover is being felt. The defending champions Blanchester lost two of their four All-Stars to graduation, but still seem to be the team to beat.
Batavia will be one of those teams looking to unseat the champs and will do so under a unique coaching situation this fall. Sally Bishop has taken over the reigns of the program for her daughter, Amber Kelley, who is out this season on maternity leave.
Bishop has been assisting the team over the past few years and knows the team well.
“We lost a lot of players, but we have two strong singles players,” Bishop said. “We’re learning how to play doubles with some of our freshman.”
Bishop will be leaning on those returning players to help lead the team, including Dana Wahl and Olivia Moon. Bishop is expecting the pair to play first and second singles, respectively and get the team off to a good start in their matches.
While Batavia seems to be the best bet to challenge Blanchester for the title, Clermont Northeastern and Felicity will also be looking to turn some heads as previously younger teams head into the 2013 season with another year of experience under their belts.
Over in the Eastern Cincinnati Conference, Milford and Glen Este are fighting two different battles. The Lady Eagles are trying to take that next step to contend for a league title, finishing in a tie for third place last year, while the Lady Trojans are trying to come together as a team to get into the mix more.
The Lady Eagles will have the unenviable task of replacing some quality seniors who were lost to graduation while Glen Este’s younger team will look to grow and become more comfortable with their expanding roles.