Canal Winchester High School girls tennis coach Jason Moisey said his five seniors collectively had a fairly low skill level when they joined his program as freshmen.
Those players have played a major role this season in leading the Indians to their best start in program history, as the Indians were 6-1 overall and 2-1 in the MSL-Buckeye Division before playing Circleville on Sept. 18.
Each of the seniors has a winning record. Through seven matches, Alex Jackson was 5-1 at second singles and 1-0 at first singles, Caitlyn Woodward was 4-2 at third singles and 1-0 at second doubles, twin sisters Allison and Samantha Haug were 6-1 at first doubles and Emily Cupp was 6-1 at second doubles, including 5-1 when partnered with sophomore Taylor Ramsey.
Sophomore Madeline Niceswanger was 6-0 at first singles.
"Three years ago, our seniors had a hard time hitting the ball because they had never played tennis before, so it's exciting to see the hard work they've put into it and what they've accomplished," Moisey said. "Our seniors weren't good tennis players when they were freshmen but I could tell that they had potential, and they've come such a long way."
The Indians lost to Logan Elm 4-1 in an MSL-Buckeye match that began Sept. 4 was suspended by bad weather and completed Sept. 11. But they defeated Hamilton Township 5-0 on Sept. 10 in a league match that Moisey considers their best victory of the season thus far.
Against Hamilton Township, Niceswanger beat Lauren Brady 6-1, 6-1 at first singles, Jackson defeated Danielle Rodriguez 6-1, 6-2 at second singles and Woodward edged Kylie Scase 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 at third singles. The Haugs defeated Shelby Carter and Dhanijsha Branham 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 at first doubles and Cupp and Ramsey beat Khloee Rowe and Amena Cheema 6-3, 6-4 at second doubles.
"We played incredible matches against Hamilton Township at third singles and first doubles and pulled out both of them," Moisey said. "That was Woodward's best match of her career. She looked like she was done when she fell behind 3-0 in the third set and then she came back and won.
"Logan Elm did a better job of controlling their shots in the wind against us. We're more of an offensive style, while their girls know how to get everything back, and Logan Elm played a little bit better than us that day."
The Indians will compete in the MSL-Buckeye tournament Saturday, Sept. 22, at Teays Valley.
Last year, Canal Winchester went 4-2 in league duals and finished second in the final league standings with 36 points, behind Logan Elm (45).
In the league tournament a year ago, Niceswanger went 3-0 to finish first at first singles and was named MSL-Buckeye Player of the Year. Going 2-1 and placing second were the Haugs at first doubles and 2012 graduates Emily Baker and Hayley Gross at second doubles. Jackson (second singles) and Woodward (third singles) each went 1-2 and finished third.
"I'd say our chances of winning our league are pretty slim after we lost 4-1 to Logan Elm," Moisey said. "But I think we've got a shot at doing better than the other teams in the league tournament because we lost two competitive matches against Logan Elm and we may be able to turn some of those losses in our favor.
"I think Madeline's going to be Player of the Year again and the rest of our girls should do well, too. If we can get all of our girls to the finals and then win four or five of them, we may win our league if someone else helps us out by beating Logan Elm somewhere along the way. I've been doing this long enough to know that strange things like that can happen if you play well."
Football team wins MSL-Buckeye opener
The football team defeated Fairfield Union 35-6 in its MSL-Buckeye Division opener on Sept. 14 to improve to 2-2 overall.
John Franklin rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries and Jaquan Ransome rushed for 73 yards and a score on 11 carries. Quarterback Isaac Pifer was 7-for-13 passing for 124 yards and two touchdown, including a 59-yard scoring pass to Skylar Scott and a 16-yard scoring pass to Zach Bontempo.
Leading the defense were linebacker Nick Toledo (14 tackles), lineman Deontaye Cosby (11 tackles, fumble recovery), linebacker Lamont Martin (9 tackles, 2 sacks) and back Khari Golden (9 tackles).
"The kids made good adjustments throughout the game," coach Shawn Hinkle said. "Our quarterback did a nice job of putting the ball where it needed to be, even though we didn't always help him out by catching the ball."
The Indians travel to Amanda-Clearcreek on Friday, Sept. 21, for an MSL-Buckeye contest. The Aces, who beat Canal Winchester 28-13 last season, lost to Circleville 18-3 in their league opener Sept. 14 to drop to 2-2.
The Aces' offense is led by junior quarterback Stephen Templeton and senior running backs Nick Brumfield and J.J. Tipton. Another key player is junior kicker Grant Brown, who was second-team all-district in Division IV last year.
"They run the ball a lot and use a lot of misdirection in the backfield, just like Fairfield Union," Hinkle said. "They also use a 5-2 defense similar to Fairfield Union, so it's nice because we're already prepared for their style.
"We need to eliminate the silly mistakes that have hurt us all year. Their running backs are good, so we've got to be sound on the line of scrimmage."