Sophomore Madeline Niceswanger of the Canal Winchester High School girls tennis team has her sights set on advancing to the Division I district tournament after falling one win shy a year ago.
Niceswanger and six of her teammates will compete in the sectional tournament Thursday, Oct. 4, and Saturday, Oct. 6, at Reynoldsburg. The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to district Oct. 12 and 13 at Hilliard Davidson.
Last year, Canal Winchester competed in the sectional at Pickerington Central and did not have any district qualifiers. Niceswanger went 2-1 in singles, losing to Teays Valley's Adrien Leatherwood 6-2, 6-2 in a district-qualifying match.
"I need to control my nerves so they don't hinder my play," Niceswanger said. "I'm just trying to improve and go further in sectional. I need to get a higher percentage of my first serves in, and I'm working on my net play, such as volleys and over-hands. I'm also working on developing my advanced shots."
Assistant coach Mitsi Niceswanger believes her daughter has the physical tools needed to be competitive at sectional.
"Madelin'e has a strong forehand, a very consistent backhand and she returns lobs well," coach Niceswanger said. "Madeline is a very consistent player all-around, and 90 percent of the challenge for her is learning to play with confidence. If Madeline keeps her head clear and plays the way she's capable of playing, she will go as far as her potential takes her."
Niceswanger opens sectional play against Chillicothe senior Liann VanVolkinburg, with the winner facing Hamilton Township senior Lauren Brady or Lancaster junior Kaelie Tripp in the second round. The winner of that match likely will face third-seeded Jane Haffer of New Albany in a district-qualifying match.
Entering a match against Ready on Oct. 1, Niceswanger was 10-0 at first singles and 1-0 at first doubles.
"Madeline knows Jane's game because they have played each other a lot in clinics over the years," coach Niceswanger said. "Jane's got a heck of a forehand and she is very strong and aggressive. She's quick on the court, too. The two of them have been pretty even when they've sparred in the past. But they haven't played in the past year, and I'm sure they've both improved since then, so we'll just have to see what happens if they get the chance to meet up in the tournament."
Also competing in singles at sectional will be Alex Jackson and Taylor Ramsey. Before Oct. 1, Jackson was 1-0 at first singles and 8-2 at second singles and Ramsey was 3-2 at third singles.
Playing doubles for the Indians will be the pairings of Emily Cupp and Caitlyn Woodward and sisters Allison and Samantha Haug.
Before Oct. 1, Cupp was 10-3 at second doubles, Woodward was 6-1 at second doubles, Allison Haug was 7-4 at first doubles and Samantha Haug was 7-3 at first doubles and 0-1 at second doubles.
Last year at sectional, the Haug sisters went 0-1 in doubles and Jackson and Woodward each went 0-1 in singles.
"I think all three of our singles players have a chance to win matches at sectional," coach Niceswanger said. "Alex is very athletic. Taylor has keen hand-eye coordination and is consistently improving her game. We still haven't seen the best of her yet."
Football team beats Bulldogs, former coach
The football team defeated visiting Bloom-Carroll and former Indians coach Phil Mauro 44-25 in an MSL-Buckeye Division game Sept. 28.
Mauro coached Canal Winchester from 2007-10, leading the Indians to a 36-9 record, two MSL-Buckeye titles and four playoff appearances. He is in his first season coaching Bloom-Carroll.
"This was a big game because it was against our former coach and we needed to win it to win the MSL and get playoff points," senior nose tackle DeOntaye Cosby said.
Canal Winchester, which improved to 4-2 overall and 3-0 in the MSL-Buckeye, travels to Hamilton Township on Friday, Oct. 5, for a league game.
The Indians beat the Rangers 19-7 last season.
Hamilton Township defeated Amanda-Clearcreek 51-14 on Sept. 28 to improve to 5-1 and 2-1.
The Rangers utilized a balanced offense, rushing for 275 yards on 35 carries and passing for 272 yards.
Quarterback Zach Thompson was 12-for-20 passing for 272 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for a touchdown.
He threw touchdown passes to running back Lorenzo Bridges (20 yards), wide receiver Wesley Ransom-Qualls (65 yards) and wide receiver Aaron Williams (35 yards).
Bridges rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries and Williams had five receptions for 151 yards.
Senior right tackle/defensive lineman Zach Morehead said the Indians will need to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, much like they did in the first half against Bloom-Carroll when they built a 31-0 lead.
"Hamilton Township has a good team, so we need to continue to play with intensity up front," Morehead said.
"When we play to our potential, we have a very good offensive line and our defense does a good job of swarming to the ball."
Against Bloom-Carroll, Canal Winchester finished with 384 yards rushing on 45 carries, with Jaquan Ransome rushing for 196 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries and John Franklin running for 128 yards and a score on 18 attempts.
Quarterback Isaac Pifer connected with wide receiver Skylar Scott on two touchdown passes (25 and 57 yards). Scott had four catches for 114 yards.
"We came out and ran the ball down their throats and we had the game under wraps by halftime," Cosby said.