By Garth Shanklin
The girls’ tennis season is well underway and several local squads already have found success on the courts.
In the Eastern Cincinnati Conference, West Clermont won their first-ever girls’ tennis match, defeating Western Brown 3-2. The team is led by several returners from last season, including Molly Stockton, Emily Robison and Mackenzie Clark. Robison was an honorable mention performer last season for Glen Este, while Stockton earned first-team all-conference honors for Amelia. Jessica Hansel returns as well after earning a spot on the second-team all-SBAAC squad.
Head coach Kevin Ammerman says the team has worked hard to improve and that he expects the squad to not only compete to win games but to appreciate the game of tennis after graduation.
“We have a great group of players from two schools that have worked hard together over the summer to become one team,” Ammerman said. “With the combination of the teams, we expect to win more but we also want the players to really enjoy themselves on the court and turn this high-school sport into a life-long activity.”
Fellow ECC opponent Milford has a new head coach at the helm, as Kelsey Davison moves over to take the reigns of the Lady Eagles squad. Milford returns Emme Thomas, Emma Neal and Jackie Hooper from last season’s team, but loses first-team all-league performer Amanda Reinhart in the process. As such, Davison said she expects the team to get better as the season goes on.
“We have a tough schedule,” Davison said. “I expect to see improvement every single match. The girls are constantly working hard and wanting to know what they can do to improve.”
Meanwhile, in the Southern Buckeye Athletic and Academic Conference’s National Division, the Clermont Northeastern Lady Rockets girls’ tennis team has several shoes to fill. The squad lost three seniors from last season’s league championship team, though first-team performer Leah Decatur and second-team all-conference honoree Elizabeth Glancy both return. Decatur is moving over from doubles to singles this year in order to help ease the loss from last season. Head coach Liz Benjamin said the team has put in the offseason work to help replace the players they lost, and she hopes the effort results in a top-half finish.
“We’ve done a lot of offseason work in order to fill the shoes of three all-league seniors,” Benjamin said. “I’d love for the girls to remain in the upper half of the National Division and to continue to work hard and improve.”
Improvement is the theme in Felicity as well, where the Lady Cardinals return several players from last season. Madison Baird will once again handle first singles duties, with Raylyn Morales and Jaylyn Clark at second and third singles, respectively. One of the advantages this team has, according to head coach James Denune, is the fact that all of his starters will return next season. That has the head coach eying a conference title.
“We’d like to make a strong push in the National Division and contend for a league title this year,” Denune said. “If not this year, definitely next.”
In the American Division, Batavia’s tennis courts are still under construction but the team continues to rebuild, with just six players on the squad in 2016. Head coach Tom Smith said this year’s team should be much more competitive than the one that won just two matches last season.
Goshen won 11 matches last season and finished 7-3 in the SBAAC American Division behind New Richmond. The Lady Warriors return five starters from last season’s team, including juniors Carline Clifton and Kelsey Salmons, both of whom were named first-team all-league performers last season.
Head coach Bryce Blanton says last season proved the team could compete in the SBAAC and this season the squad hopes to take that next step.
“Last year was a step forward for the program, it showed the girls that they could compete with the traditionally strong teams in the league,” Blanton said. “The girls exceeded expectations and created a strong foundation for the future. I expect to be competitive with every team on our schedule this year and further improve. We are excited about the additions of Wilmington and Clinton Massie into the league.”
Whereas Goshen returns seven players, all of which have varsity experience, the defending champion New Richmond Lady Lions lost a few players from last season’s undefeated league champions.
Gone are Lily Cahall, Taylor Cardarelli, Krista Reid, Maria Steinmetz and Tori Loving, all of whom earned postseason honors from the SBAAC.
Despite the loss to graduation, the Lady Lions do return some experience this season, led by Kara O’Toole, Kaleigh Pratt, Madeline Walls and Elise Bezold. The team also adds former New Richmond goalkeeper Jazmyn Hinkston to the squad.
Head coach Terri Flamm says she expects the team to compete every time they take the court.
“I expect continual improvement, great sportsmanship and competitive matches,” Flamm said. “We may not win them all, but we’ll find a way to compete.”
Several local teams competed in the Blanchester Invitational this past weekend. Three of the final four players in singles play came from Clermont County, with Goshen’s Sami Huhn defeating Western Brown’s Hanna Young 7-6 (6), 4-6, [10-8] to advance to the finals. Clifton defeated New Richmond’s O’Toole 6-0, 6-0 to face Huhn, with Clifton earning the straight-set 6-3, 6-2 win and the title.
In doubles play, Hinkston and Harrison from New Richmond fell to Western Brown’s Brooklyn O’Hara and Becca Carroll in the finals, 6-4, 7-6 .