The Groveport Madison High School girls tennis team plans to enjoy this season for many reasons.
First and foremost is the philosophy of 35th-year coach Doug Ewart.
"We have all part-time players with little real tennis experience," Ewart said. "We've got some girls who play other sports, but mostly we have a group of girls who want to learn and enjoy the game and have fun. So that's what we're going to do. The only goals are to work hard, improve and have fun."
After a $5.5 million emergency levy failed by 12 votes in the May 7 election, the school district was forced to make financial cuts. As a result, Groveport will fund only one boys sport and one girls sport per season over the course of the school year.
In the fall, football and girls volleyball will be funded. The rest of the athletic programs are viewed as club sports and must be self-sufficient, paying operational costs such as transportation, game officials and equipment. The club sports will have volunteer coaches and will be overseen by a board of directors.
"We were fortunate for a number of reasons," Ewart said. "We had some funds left in the 2013 budget we used for tennis balls and other costs. Plus, we were able to get all of our opponents to travel here to play. We only needed enough funds to take a bus to the OCC tournament and the (Division I) sectional."
Regular-season matches do not have officials.
"Each of our players only had to pay $50 for costs, whereas the normal pay-to-participate fee is $150 (for funded sports)," said Ewart, whose team opens Tuesday, Aug. 20, with an OCC-Ohio Division match against Gahanna. "It worked out pretty well and the girls are excited to have a chance to play. This is my last year coaching, so I wanted to make sure we do it right and enjoy this together. I didn't want to abandon them.
"It's a great group to go out with. They enjoy each other and are great people. They have a good chemistry."
The Cruisers have returned seven letterwinners from last season, when they finished 1-12 overall and placed eighth (4 points, 0-7) in the OCC-Ohio behind champion Pickerington Central (77, 7-0).
The returnees are seniors Alex Goodwin, Hannah Roach and Kaysea Smith, juniors Jordan Gilmore, Elise Goodwin and Cheyanne Morris and sophomore Jordan Walton.
Rounding out the roster are senior Lindsey Ferrin, junior Raquel Hawkins and sophomores Rachel Austin and Amber Nunez.
"Hannah played first singles for us last year," Ewart said. "She's a lefty and a hard worker. She chases every ball down.
"Lindsey may be our No. 1 this year, but she has to work off some rust. She hasn't played competitively in two years, but she has power, strategy and tennis knowledge. She had two older sisters who were very good for us."
Smith and Walton also vying for playing time at singles, and the Goodwin sisters are expected to comprise one of the doubles teams.
"Those sisters get it," Ewart said. "They cover for each other and play hard for each other. They make a great doubles team. I really don't have to coach them. They know what they have to do and they know what the other is going to do."