The gap between the Bexley High School girls tennis team and rival Columbus Academy might be closing.
After losing to the Vikings 3-2 in the first round of the Division II OTCA team tournament and in the regular season, fourth-year coach Shelby Cheses hopes this might be the year the Lions finally catch the Vikings.
"We had some really tough matches with Academy last year," Cheses said. "We're looking for a little revenge this year. They've lost a lot to graduation and we're bringing back all but three of our players from last year. Hopefully we can take advantage of that."
Senior Maddie Morton, a three-time state qualifier in doubles, placed second in the Division II state tournament with graduate Corrine Rauck after losing to DeSales' DeSales' Kim My Li and My Linh Li 6-2, 6-7 (7-9), 6-2 in the state doubles championship last year.
Morton, who reached the state doubles quarterfinals in 2007 and placed third in 2008 with Rauck, said it's weird beginning the season with her partner.
"(Not having Rauck there) is something I've definitely had to get used to," Morton said. "I don't think I will be playing doubles this year, which is pretty sad, but hopefully I can get just as far in singles."
However, the Lions, who finished 13-5 overall last year, return seniors Morton, Casey Edelstein, Brawnie Petrov and Becca Seigel and sophomore Becca Landon. Also expected to contribute this year are junior Anna Sechtor and sophomore Sierra Humphries.
Bexley and the Vikings advanced to the finals on all five courts of the MSL-Ohio/Cardinal Division tournament. Rauck defeated Nisha Nataraj 10-5 at first singles and Morton beat Neha Patel 10-3 at second singles.
Landon lost to Parul Reddy 10-7 at third singles. Bergman and Petrov lost to Academy's Lindsay Hughes and Mallika Marar 10-1 at first doubles. Edelstein and Lindsay Staub, who decided not to play tennis this year, lost to Sir Kundur and Julia Souba 10-3 at second doubles.
"The key for us is going to be commitment and consistency," Cheses said. "We have a lot of seniors who have been on the varsity for four years and they want to go out on a high note by winning the league."
•Boys golf coach Jim Ryan said one of the challenges of working with young golfers is keeping them from trying to do too much.
"The biggest thing is teaching them the mental aspect of the game," Ryan said. "The younger players tend to take those Superman shots instead of taking their medicine on certain holes."
The Lions tied Wellington with a 331, but won the nine-team Jaguar Invitational on their fifth man score on Aug. 9 at Chapel Hill.
Sophomores Tyler Seckel, Shane Weisman, Chris Craig and Grant Murphy will lead Bexley, which finished 11th with a 371 behind state qualifiers DeSales (315), Granville (322), and Johnstown (335) at the Division II district tournament last fall. Seckel shot a 69 in a 318-339 win over Fairfield Union on Aug. 5.
Senior Jake Diamond, junior Dylan Miller, sophomore Chris Fowler and freshman Ryan Reed are also expected to contend for time on varsity.
"Shane and Tyler should be a strong 1-2 punch for us," said Ryan, who is in his eighth season coaching Bexley. "We need to mature, but shooting a 318 in our first varsity match is great especially when you consider we had a lot of players who were playing in their first match."
Bexley tied Newark Catholic for third in the MSL-Ohio with a 12-9 record, finishing behind Granville (19-2) and Columbus Academy (18-3). The Lions placed third (356) behind champion Johnstown (327) and Buckeye Valley (339) in a sectional tournament to return to the district tournament.
"We play a pretty demanding schedule with the league we're in," Ryan said. "But I know this group is going to mature.
"We have an outside chance to make it to state this year, but in the next two years, we're going to contend for the state title."
•Qualifying for the district tournament for the first time since 2003 has motivated the girls golf team for this season. The Lions placed sixth with a 395 at the Division II district tournament, finishing behind state qualifiers Logan Elm (365), Minerva (365), and West Muskingum (375).
"I'm sure they all want to get back there," said coach Kay Addy, who is in her 11th season co-coaching with her husband Jerry Addy. "The experience of being there is going to help us a great deal."
Bexley didn't lose any golfers to graduation and Kay Addy said the team spent a lot of the offseason working on its game.
Seniors Kathryn Rogers and Ruby Bemis, who are starting their fourth season on varsity, and junior Amy Greenblott, will captain the team.
Last year, Rogers (90) was the medalist when the Lions won a Division II sectional tournament with a 409. She also was second (90) when Bexley won the MSL-Ohio postseason tournament with a 398.
Sophomore Rachael Jackson, who anchored the second spot last year, also returns.
Kay Addy is expecting big things out of junior Emily Ruff, junior Erica Layman and sophomores Kaylee Davis, Tomania Potter, Liz Haught and Emily Reed.
Bexley won the MSL-Ohio title with a 13-1 record, but will have a more difficult time repeating as league champion this year as the MSL has consolidated girls golf into one 10-team division.
"Hopefully we can repeat and I know they have their eyes on going to the district, but we have to take things one step at a time," Kay Addy said. "We have to make a lot of improvements before the end of the season."
At a glance
Aug. 9 - Wellington Inv. at Chapel Hill
Aug. 12 - Grandview Inv. at Oakhurst
Aug. 13 - Bloom-Carroll Inv. at Pine Hills
*Aug. 14 - MSL-Pre-Season tournament at Clover Valley
Aug. 20 - Northridge Inv. at St. Albans
Aug. 23 - Academy Shootout at Columbus Country Club
*Aug. 26 - Heath at Burning Tree
*Aug. 31 - Whitehall at Westchester
*Sept. 2 - Granville at TBA
*Sept. 7 - Newark Catholic at TBA
*Sept. 9 - Lakewood at TBA
Sept. 11 - Bexley Inv. at Westchester
*Sept. 14 - Licking Valley at Westchester
*Sept. 16 - Columbus Academy at TBA
*Sept. 21 - MSL-Ohio tournament at TBA
Sept. 23 - Grandview at TBA
Aug. 12 - Top 19 girls golf tournament at Bent Tree
*Aug. 17 - MSL Pre-Season at Homestead
Aug. 19 - MOGGL tournament at Echo Springs
*Aug. 23 - Teays Valley at Columbus Country Club
*Aug. 24 - Liberty Union at Estate Club
Aug. 28 - MOGGL tournament at Fox Fire
*Aug. 30 - Logan Elm at Columbus Country Club
*Aug. 31 - Canal Winchester at TBA
*Sept. 2 - Granville at Granville
*Sept. 7 - Licking Valley at Columbus Country Club
Sept. 11 - Bexley Inv. at Fox Fire
*Sept. 13 - Lakewood at Columbus Country Club
*Sept. 14 - Newark Catholic at TBA
*Sept. 15 - Heath at Burning Tree
Sept. 16 - MOGGL tournament at Bent Tree
*Sept. 21 - MSL tournament at Pine Hills
Sept. 23 - MOGGL tournament at Bent Tree
Aug. 16 - vs. North Canton Hoover
Aug. 18 - vs. Dublin Coffman
Aug. 25 - vs. Gahanna
Aug. 26 - vs. Wellington
Aug. 28 - Watterson Inv. at Park of Roses
Aug. 30 - at Worthington Kilbourne
Sept. 1 - at Columbus School for Girls
*Sept. 2 - at Grandview
Sept. 4 - at Pickerington North Inv.
*Sept. 7 - at Fisher Catholic
Sept. 10 - vs. Reynoldsburg
Sept. 13 - vs. Worthington Christian
Sept. 15 - at Pickerington Central
*Sept. 16 - vs. Columbus Academy
Sept. 22 - vs. Hilliard Bradley
*Sept. 23 - vs. Whitehall
*Sept. 28 - at Granville
Sept. 30 - vs. DeSales
*Oct. 2 - MSL tournament at Academy
Oct. 6 - vs. Watterson