Heading into tryouts, Canal Winchester High School girls tennis coach Jason Moisey was concerned about his team's limited varsity experience, but those worries were quelled after the first week of practice.
The Indians, who lost five of their top seven players from a year ago to graduation after finishing 9-1 overall, open Thursday, Aug. 15, at Lancaster.
"We lost a good group of seniors, but this team actually looks a little stronger than the one we had last year," Moisey said. "The girls we have back look like they have improved a lot, and our new girls already are showing a lot of promise."
The Indians return two letterwinners in junior Madeline Niceswanger, who is in her third season at first singles, and junior Taylor Ramsey.
Also on the team are sophomores Kim Detty, Candace Maswela and Molly Schmitz and freshmen Katee Stone, Kamala Sweeney and Athena Theumathalaray. Theumathalaray is expected to play second singles.
Last year, Niceswanger went 2-0 in the MSL-Buckeye Division tournament to be named league Player of the Year. Her performance helped the Indians finish second in the league with 31 points and a 4-1 record behind Logan Elm (42, 5-0).
Niceswanger then went 2-1 in the Division I sectional at Reynoldsburg to fall one win shy of qualifying for district.
The Indians have moved to the OCC-Cardinal this season along with Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto, Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Darby, Westerville Central, Westerville South and Westerville North. Jerome is the two-time defending Division I state champion of the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association tournament.
"The competition will be a little tougher in the OCC, but I don't think we'll be smoked out of the water by anyone," Moisey said. "I've been surprised at how well our girls have developed their strokes and every one of them continues to get better."
Boys golf team improves numbers
The boys golf team's top player from a year ago, Gentry Thompson, did not return for his senior season, but coach Joe Bernowski believes the Indians should be better than they were last fall.
Their roster consists of seniors Cody Cowgill and Drew Miller, junior Mason Lance, sophomores Joseph Bernowski and Matt Snyder and freshmen Spencer Boyer and Mason Kamer.
Thompson was a Division I district qualifier last season.
"We didn't have a full team most of last year, but we should have a full team for every match this year, so we'll be much improved from that standpoint," coach Bernowski said. "We've grown the numbers on our team and that was our biggest goal coming into this season."
Canal Winchester, which finished last (0-18) in the MSL-Buckeye last year behind champion Teays Valley (18-0), has moved to the OCC-Cardinal.
The Indians opened their season Aug. 7 by placing eighth (453) in the first round of the OCC-Cardinal tournament at Turnberry behind Jerome (292), Westerville Central (317), Westerville South (322), Scioto (332), Westerville North (338), Darby (341) and Bradley (343).
Jerome is the two-time defending Division I state champion.
"Our guys have picked up right where they left off last year," coach Bernowski said. "We didn't win any matches in the MSL last year, but I think we can improve to the point where we can win some OCC matches this year."
Girls golf team off to good start in OCC
The girls golf team is expected to be led by junior Mary Hippler, sophomores Sarah Allen, Bailey Kruger, Kate Mueller and Monica Smith and freshman Grace Hippler.
"We're very young, but the girls are coachable and motivated to get better," coach Greg Hippler said.
Canal Winchester, which finished second (9-3) in the MSL-Buckeye last year behind champion Logan Elm (12-0), has moved to the OCC-Ohio this season.
The Indians opened Aug. 7 by shooting a 366 in the first round of the OCC-Ohio tournament at Westchester to place second behind defending champion Pickerington North (334) and ahead of Thomas Worthington (375), Upper Arlington (375), Gahanna (387), Hilliard Davidson (403) and Lancaster (512).
Mary Hippler shot an 86 to lead the Indians, followed by Grace Hippler (92), Smith (93) and Krueger (95).
"I feel like we've been able to pick up right where we left off last year," coach Hippler said. "Pickerington North is the class of our league, so we're just trying to challenge the rest of the teams for second. We're excited about our finish in the first OCC tournament and we're excited about this team's upside."
Another goal for the Indians is to advance to the Division I district tournament.
Last season, Canal Winchester finished fourth (393) in the nine-team sectional at Oakhaven to finish one stroke behind the final district qualifier, Thomas Worthington (392).
The Indians were led at sectional by 2013 graduate Marci Browning, who carded a 91 to advance to district at Cooks Creek, where she shot a 95.