Jerome looks to duplicate '11 success
The Dublin Jerome High School girls tennis team put together a nearly-perfect season last year, going 22-0 overall in dual matches en route to winning the Division I Ohio Tennis Coaches Association state title and capturing its eighth consecutive league championship.
Second-year coach Tyler Stephen doesn't see any reason why the Celtics can't match that success this fall, considering that they have returned seven letterwinners, including seniors Lauren Bellinger and Sarah Stein.
Last season, Bellinger and Stein went 4-0 in doubles to win the Division I sectional tournament at Hilliard Davidson, went 4-0 to win the district title at Davidson and went 4-0 at state at Elysium Tennis Center in Plain City to win their first state doubles title.
Bellinger and Stein rallied to defeat Watterson's Lauren Ghidotti and Katie Shepherd 0-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) in the state final to become the first doubles team in the state tournament's 36-year history to win a final after losing the first set 6-0.
Juniors Maddy Easdale and Sophia Gomez and sophomores Rhiannon James, Caitlyn Merzbacher and Emma Stein also have returned, and, according to Stephen, the roster will be further bolstered by the addition of freshman Ellee Bullock.
Last year at sectional, Emma Stein went 5-0 to place first, Merzbacher went 3-1 and placed third and James went 3-2 and placed fourth, as all three advanced to district in singles.
At district, Emma Stein went 3-1 and placed second to qualify for state. Merzbacher went 1-1 and James went 0-1.
Emma Stein then went 1-1 at state.
"Are we more talented this year than we were last year?" Stephen said. "The answer is yes, but that doesn't mean anything will be handed to us because other teams have gained some talent, too. Our girls worked really hard in the offseason to get even better, but they understand that they will need to stay a driven and focused group to achieve what they want to achieve because it's a new year."
Last year, the Celtics went 7-0 in OCC-Cardinal Division matches and finished the league tournament with 77 points. Olentangy Liberty (54, 6-1) placed second, followed by Westerville Central (42, 5-2), Scioto (37, 4-3), Olentangy (22, 2-5), Westerville South (19, 3-4), Westerville North (16, 1-6) and Marysville (1, 0-7).
Bellinger won the first singles titles, beating Liberty's Sydney Power 6-2, 6-4 in the final to become OCC-Cardinal Player of the Year.
As part of OCC realignment this summer, Liberty and Marysville moved to the OCC-Central and were replaced by Hilliard Darby and Worthington Kilbourne, both of which had been in the OCC-Central. In addition, Olentangy moved to the OCC-Capital and was replaced by Hilliard Bradley, which had been in the OCC-Capital.
Jerome also captured its first OTCA state team title last year after defeating Toledo Notre Dame Academy 3-0 in a state semifinal and beating Cincinnati Ursuline Academy 3-1 in the final.
"We have the same group back and we've added a freshman who is very good, so we'll put the girls in the positions that makes us the best team we can be and see how far we can go this year," Stephen said.
Shamrocks aim for OCC-Central title
Coffman went 10-6 overall in dual matches last year and was runner-up in the OCC-Central.
Playing first singles for the fourth consecutive season is senior Ash Thenappan.
Last year, she went 4-1 and placed second in the Division I sectional at Davidson, went 2-2 and placed fourth at district and went 0-1 at state.
Also playing singles are sophomore Crissi Tzagournis and freshman Ashley Tan. Senior Nicole Talebi, junior Amber Lee, sophomore Annie Yang and freshmen Summer Asad and Jessica Flynn are vying for playing time at doubles.
All but Asad, Flynn and Tan are returnees.
Last season, Lee and 2012 graduate Meghan Letizia went 3-1 and placed third in doubles at sectional before going 1-1 at district.
"Our team was solid last year, but we've got some good, talented players coming up and I think we could be better this year," Thenappan said. "We're going to try to beat Upper Arlington this year. That would be awesome because we've been second behind them in the OCC the Fpast few years."
Coffman finished second (54, 5-2) in the OCC-Central last year, behind UA (72, 7-0) and ahead of Davidson (46, 6-1), Kilbourne (37, 4-3), Thomas Worthington (29, 3-4), Darby (18, 2-5), Central Crossing (9, 1-6) and Westland (3, 0-7).
Thenappan beat UA's Elaine Cloern 6-2, 6-1 in the final at first singles to be named OCC-Central Player of the Year.
"We lost some key members of our team to graduation, but our leadership has been really good and I feel good about our chances of having another good season," first-year coach Eric Bringardner said. "We're expecting another big season out of Ash, too."
Irish featuring experienced lineup
Scioto went 10-6 overall in dual matches last year and finished fourth in the OCC-Cardinal.
Vying to play first singles are senior Jessica Xu and junior Prachi Bansal. Junior Susma Rai will play third singles and seniors Madha Choudhary and Karishma Patel will play first doubles.
Rotating starts at second doubles will be the team of senior Rathisha Pathmathasan and sophomore Cynthia Pathmathasan and the team of junior Monica Xu and sophomore Sunanda Chilukuri.
Last year, the Irish had no Division I district qualifiers, but Jessica Xu and Bansal each went 2-1 in singles and the doubles team of Choudhary and Patel went 2-1 in the sectional at Davidson.
"We have a lot of (returnees), but some of them didn't play as much tennis as we hoped because they were involved in other activities," 18th-year coach Mike Wrigley said. "So I think our team is going to be pretty similar to last year's team.
"Jerome should win our league again, and Hilliard Bradley and Worthington Kilbourne have moved into our conference and are looking good. I'm hoping we can compete for fourth or fifth considering how good the competition in our league is."