Sophomore Ellee Bullock of the Dublin Jerome High School girls tennis team might have surprised some people with her performance in the Division I state tournament, but coach Tyler Stephen wasn't the least bit surprised.
Bullock went 3-1 and placed third in singles at state, held Oct. 18 at Ohio State and Oct. 19 at Elysium Tennis Center. Last year at state as a freshman, she and former teammate Caitlyn Merzbacher went 2-2 and placed fourth in doubles.
"I just sit back and smile when people talk about how Ellee has come out of nowhere this year, because she's been a very good player for a long time and she was just hidden in our lineup last year because of our depth," Stephen said. "This was her coming-out party in singles and she surprised a lot of people with how well she played after flying under the radar as a freshman."
Bullock opened state with a 6-0, 6-2 win over Toledo Notre Dame Academy's Nina Eid and beat Kings Mills Kings' Amina Ismail 6-2, 6-3 in the second round.
"Nina is a great player, so I wasn't underestimating her at all," Bullock said. "I just came out and things went my way."
Bullock lost to Watterson's Lauren Ghidotti 6-2, 7-5 in a semifinal but bounced back to defeat Massillon Jackson's Tessa Hill 7-6 (7-3), 6-0 in the consolation final to finish the season with a 27-2 record in singles matches.
"Finishing top (three) in the state is a huge deal for Ellee," Stephen said. "This (was) the first time she's had the chance to showcase how good she is in singles, and (she made) people wish they had jumped on her bandwagon earlier."
Also competing at state was junior Rhiannon James, who lost to Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit's Molly Sandberg 6-2, 4-6, 6-0 in the first round.
Jerome reached a district final in the Division I Ohio Tennis Coaches Association tournament before losing to eventual champion Upper Arlington 3-2 on Oct. 15 to finish 16-3 overall.
The Celtics had won the previous two state titles.
"We came very close to making it back to the state tournament, but Upper Arlington's a great team and this was their year," Stephen said. "Just to make it back to the district final was a big deal for our team after we lost some very good players and a lot of people counted us out."
Jerome finished first in the OCC-Cardinal Division with a 7-0 record and 42 points. Scioto (35, 6-1) was second, followed by Westerville Central (28, 5-2), Hilliard Bradley (18, 3-4), Hilliard Darby (18, 3-4), Westerville South (13, 2-5), Canal Winchester (10, 2-5) and Westerville North (4, 0-7).
The league title was the Celtics' 10th in as many seasons.
Jerome won the first-place OCC tournament Sept. 28, scoring 17 points to beat OCC-Central champion UA (13), OCC-Capital champion New Albany (12) and OCC-Ohio champion Pickerington Central (8).
Bullock (first singles), James (second singles), seniors Maddy Easdale and Sofia Gomez (first doubles) and sophomores Stephanie George and Courtney Go (second doubles) all went 2-0 and placed first.
"We're very proud of winning our 10th OCC title, and we played our best tennis of the year to win the (first-place OCC tournament)," Stephen said.
Jerome loses two seniors in Easdale and Gomez but expects to return six players with varsity experience in Bullock, George, Go, James and freshmen Natalie Gomez and Emily Neal.
Easdale and Sofia Gomez were district qualifiers in doubles.
"We were young this year and the experience we gained will pay off big-time next season," Stephen said.
Shamrocks had four district qualifiers
Among the highlights for Coffman this season was a 3-2 win over Jerome on Sept. 4 that broke the Celtics' 50-match winning streak.
The Shamrocks finished 10-5 overall and placed second (34, 6-1) in the OCC-Central behind UA (39, 7-0) and ahead of Olentangy Liberty (30, 5-2), Davidson (27, 4-3), Thomas Worthington (17, 3-4), Marysville (12, 2-5), Westland (8, 1-6) and Central Crossing (1, 0-7).
Coffman also finished second (17) in the second-place OCC tournament Sept. 28 behind Olentangy Orange (18) of the OCC-Capital and ahead of Gahanna (5) of the OCC-Ohio and Scioto (4) of the OCC-Cardinal.
Junior Krissi Tzagournis (third singles) and freshmen Victoria Fan and Skylar Moore (second doubles) went to 2-0 to place first, and sophomore Ashley Tan (first singles) and senior Amber Lee (second singles) each went 1-1 and placed second.
"Our biggest win was definitely beating Jerome, but we also had a big win over Olentangy Liberty (3-2 on Aug. 29) which helped us do well in the OCC," coach Brett Hundertpfund said.
The Shamrocks had four Division I district qualifiers in Lee and Tan (doubles), Fan (singles) and Tzagournis (singles), but none advanced to state.
"Obviously, we wanted some of our girls to go a little farther in the tournament, but they played well overall," Hundertpfund said.
"We're losing our No. 2 singles player (Lee) and that's tough because she was really good, but we definitely have a lot of young talent coming back and I've heard our incoming freshmen are going to be good, so I'm optimistic about next season."
Irish put together winning season
Scioto finished 11-6 overall and 6-1 (second) in the OCC-Cardinal. The season ended in the Division I sectional Oct. 3 and 5 at Upper Arlington, as they did not have any district qualifiers.
Competing at sectional were seniors Susma Rai (singles) and Monica Xu (doubles), juniors Sunanda Chilukuri (doubles), Cynthia Pathmathasan (doubles) and Shelby Powell (doubles) and freshmen Sugamya Juvvigunta (singles) and Hrunya Ravindran (singles).