Watterson High School boys tennis coach Barb Woods understands that her team is facing major obstacles this season.
The Eagles lost six of their top seven players from a year ago to graduation, including three-time state champion Chris Diaz, and for the first time in Woods’ 20 seasons as coach, there are not enough players to field a junior varsity squad.
Diaz, who is playing for Ohio State, went 92-1 in singles matches during his prep career and won a program-record 92 consecutive singles matches en route to capturing Division II state titles as a junior and senior. He did not lose a set his final two seasons with the Eagles.
Diaz teamed with his brother, Philip, to win the Division I doubles title in 2008 and the duo finished second in doubles in the Division I state tournament in 2009.
“You can’t replace a player like Chris because you’re lucky if you have a player like him come along once every 20 years,” Woods said. “We’re still playing a pretty decent schedule, so we’re probably going to take some lumps along the way.”
Watterson, which has only nine players in its program, opened March 27 against Dublin Jerome and begins CCL play Tuesday, April 3, at home against DeSales.
Junior Ryan Bibo will play first singles and serve as team captain after playing first doubles and third singles last year.
Freshman Kevin Beattie and sophomore Stev Gregory will fill the other two singles spots, while sophomore twins Mark and Michael Guza will play first doubles and junior Jackson Garrity, sophomores Jae Suk Dae and Michael O’Brien and freshman Tyler Scott will rotate at second doubles.
“This year is just to get some experience under their belts and have them support each other and play together as a team,” Woods said. “It will take some time before they have the experience to compete with the top players in the area.”
Last year, Watterson finished 13-9 overall in dual matches after losing to Bexley 3-2 in a Division II Ohio Tennis Coaches Association district final. The Eagles went 3-1 in the CCL to finish second, behind St. Charles (4-0) and ahead of DeSales (2-2), Ready (1-3) and Hartley (0-4).
“St. Charles has some good players back and they will be the top team to beat in the CCL,” Woods said. “I think we’ll still be competitive in the CCL and I expect all of our players to keep improving. We don’t have any seniors, so we’ll be better next year.”
Boys volleyball team expects to have a strong offense
The boys volleyball team opened March 24 by going 2-1 in the St. Charles Classic at Pickerington North, defeating St. Charles 25-20, 25-19 and Cincinnati McNicholas 25-22, 21-25, 25-14 and losing to Westerville North 25-21, 25-23.
The Eagles finished 10-9 overall last year, defeating DeSales 25-20, 25-15, 25-15 in their opener in the Division II East Region tournament before losing to St. Charles 25-16, 22-25, 25-18, 25-23 in a semifinal.
Sophomore Matthew Randolph has returned at setter and senior Cory Randolph is back at outside hitter for the third consecutive year. Junior outside hitter Joe Mankovecky and sophomore outside hitter Zackary Storc saw significant playing time last season as well.
Rounding out the team are juniors Cameron Golamb (libero), Michael Liston (middle hitter) and Chris McManamon (defensive specialist) and sophomores Keegan Flaherty (opposite hitter), Matthew Hughes (middle hitter) and Danny Lucia (defensive specialist).
“Cory hits the ball incredibly well and he’s a good leader as our only senior,” first-year coach Ed Cruz said. “Our setter is real fast and athletic, so I think we’re going to be a strong offensive team because the rest of the guys move to the ball real well, too.”
Last year, Watterson finished second in the Central Ohio Volleyball League at 8-2, behind St. Charles (10-0), and ahead of Whetstone (5-5), DeSales (4-6), Gahanna Christian (2-8) and Licking Heights (1-9).
Gahanna Christian is not fielding a team this spring.
Watterson opened league play March 27 against Whetstone.
“Our goals are to win our league title and make the state final four,” Cruz said. “We don’t just hope to be there; we expect to be there.”