Goshen aims to repeat as SBAAC tennis champs

By Garth Shanklin - Sports Editor

Tennis courts at high schools around Clermont County are once again hopping with activity as the girls’ tennis season officially began on Friday, August 10.

Several county schools are looking to make an impact this season, starting with the defending Southern Buckeye Athletic and Academic Conference American Division champions in Goshen.

The Lady Warriors posted their third consecutive winning season in 2017, picking up the school’s first league championship. Head coach Bryce Blanton said last season was “incredible.”

“Last season was an incredible achievement for a group of players that have been striving to leave their mark on the tennis program at Goshen,” Blanton said. “It was a memorable season, as [we] had never won a league title in school history, and it was the goal the girls had set their freshman year.”

Every single starter returns from last season’s championship team, a squad that also won the league tournament. Goshen is led by senior Caroline Clifton, who earned first-team all-conference honors and shared the SBAAC American player of the year award with Western Brown’s Hanna Young.

Two other first-team all-stars also return: Sami Hun and Kelsey Salmons. Seniors Dinah Middick and Kassandra Palafox also enter their final season with a combined five years of varsity experience. Senior Shayna Velagic and junior Morgan Horr round out the Goshen rosters.

Blanton said he thinks that group of players have played together long enough to understand what they have to do to win matches.

“I have a team of players that have been playing together for a long time and have proven that they know what it takes to win,” Blanton said. “They are a group of competitors that challenge each other to get better. I feel like I have seven leaders on the same team, it makes coaching a lot of fun.”

Two other county schools are also looking to make a run at things in the American Division. New Richmond has lost several players over the last two seasons, including a first-team all-conference performer (Kara O’Toole) and a pair of second-teamers (Jazmyn Hinkston and Madeline Walls).

Nonetheless, head coach Terri Flamm said her team is still experienced this season, and she hopes to continue to push for the league title.

“Like last year, we lost five starters,” Flamm said. “I hope to repeat last year and challenge each team in our league. We’ll look to improve our league finish.”

Flamm added that she feels the team, led by Julie Harrison and Sophia Dragoo, is very “athletic” and praised their work ethic.

A third county team is looking to rebound from a tough 2017. Batavia placed sixth in the American Division, finishing the season without a win in conference play. The Lady Bulldogs enter 2018 under new head coach Amber Kelley, who returned to coaching after a three-year absence.

Kelly said she sees the potential in the team, and hopes for improvement as the season goes on.

Another Clermont County team enters the season coming off a second-place finish in the SBAAC National Division. The Clermont Northeastern Lady Rockets shared a title in 2016, but finished second last year due to several close matches not going their way.

Senior Leah Decatur was the team’s lone representative on the first-team all-conference squad as a junior last season, and head coach Liz Benjamin said she hopes for Decatur to earn a second straight player of the year honor.

The team also has a host of juniors and sophomores competing to round out the roster. Two singles spots remain, according to Benjamin, with three players competing for them.

By Garth Shanklin

Sports Editor

Reach Garth Shanklin at gshanklin@clermontsun.com or via phone at 513-732-2511 ext. 112.

Reach Garth Shanklin at gshanklin@clermontsun.com or via phone at 513-732-2511 ext. 112.