Brett Hundertpfund was eager to meet his players and gauge their skill level after being hired this summer for his second tenure as coach of the Dublin Coffman High School girls tennis team.
He coached the Shamrocks in 2011 but was unable to do so last year after taking a classified position at Dublin Scioto, as there is a school district rule that prohibits classified employees from coaching within the district.
Hundertpfund, who was cleared to begin coaching within the district again after being hired in July as a health teacher at Coffman, was pleasantly surprised by the Shamrocks' talent level during tryouts.
"We had a pretty talented team when I coached here two years ago, but I think this one is even better," he said. "We have a good mix of experienced players who have come back to lead the group and we're adding some young talented players who are going to make us better."
Sophomore Ashley Tan has returned at first singles.
Last season, Tan won the Division I sectional title at Pickerington Central in singles and placed fourth at district at Hilliard Davidson before losing in the first round in the state tournament at Ohio State and Elysium Tennis Center.
Three other district qualifiers have returned in senior Amber Lee and juniors Crissi Tzagournis and Annie Yang.
Last year, Lee placed third in singles at sectional before losing in the first round at district and Tzagournis and Yang placed third in doubles at sectional before losing in the opening round at district.
Rounding out the roster are sophomores Sahithee Batchu, Addie Desroches and Jessica Flynn and freshmen Victoria Fan and Skylar Moore.
"We have a superstar back in Tan and Amber, Crissi and Annie give us a lot of good experience, too," Hundertpfund said.
Coffman, which placed second (61 points, 5-2) in the OCC-Central Division behind Upper Arlington (80, 7-0) last year, is aiming for the league title this fall.
Unlike in past seasons when the points gained in league dual matches and the league tournament were combined to determine the league champion, the title for all four OCC divisions will be decided solely by dual records this year and the four league champions will play for the overall OCC championship.
The Shamrocks open league play Tuesday, Aug. 20, at Davidson.
"Our goals are to win our conference and to go as far as we can in the state tournament," Hundertpfund said. "You can always assume UA is going to be strong because of their tradition, but I feel like we've got a shot at beating them this year if we play really well."
Irish hoping to move up in OCC
Scioto has returned four players in seniors Prachi Bansal, Susma Rai and Monica Xu and junior Cynthia Pathmathasan.
Bansal and Rai are back at first singles and third singles, respectively, and freshman Hrunya Ravindran is expected to play second singles.
Rounding out the roster are juniors Sunanda Chilukuri, Shivani Patel and Shelby Powell and sophomores Denny Carver and Nikki Loka.
"We've got some good talent and experience at singles, but we're probably not going to be as strong at doubles as we have been in the past," coach Mike Wrigley said. "We're struggling to find a good No. 1 doubles team, so we'll probably need the girls to switch who they are playing with. If we can tweak what we have a little bit, we can be a much better team, but I'm not going to force those changes. We're letting them figure it out themselves first."
The Irish, who did not have any Division I district qualifiers a year ago, are hoping to move up in the OCC-Cardinal after finishing fourth (47, 4-3) last year behind champion Jerome (72, 7-0).
"Jerome is the standout team in the Cardinal division of the OCC, and it's a crapshoot for second place between everyone else," Wrigley said. "We'd like to finish second in our league, but we'll have great competition across the board."
Celtics looking to reload, win OCC
Five players who helped Jerome win its second consecutive Division I Ohio Tennis Coaches Association state championship a year ago have returned in seniors Maddy Easdale and Sophia Gomez, juniors Rhiannon James and Emma Stein and sophomore Ellee Bullock.
Last season, the doubles team of Stein and her sister, 2013 graduate Sarah Stein, placed second in the Division I state tournament after finishing second at district and in the sectional at Davidson.
The doubles team of Bullock and then-sophomore Caitlyn Merzbacher placed fourth at state after finishing fourth at district and winning the sectional title. Merzbacher did not return as her family moved out of the state.
In singles, James placed second at sectional before losing in the second round at district.
Rounding out the team are sophomores Stephanie George and Courtney Go and freshmen Natalia Gomez and Emily Neal.
"This is a different team, but we're still very strong and our girls still have some swagger," coach Tyler Stephen said. "We have huge targets on our backs once again, but our new players are ready to show how talented they really are."
Jerome is aiming for its 10th league title in its 10th year of existence after rolling to the OCC-Cardinal championship last year.
The Celtics also are eyeing another OTCA state title. Last year, they beat Rocky River Magnificat 3-0 in a state semifinal before defeating Cincinnati Ursuline Academy 3-0 in the final.
"The OCC title is important to us because we've always won it in the past and we expect this streak to continue," Stephen said. "We're the No. 1 seed in the (OTCA) district tournament and we want to get back to state again. That's the goal every year no matter who we lose."