Having moved to the revived Licking County League this school year, the Watkins Memorial High School athletic teams will cut down on travel given the close proximity to their league opponents and build strong rivalries.
However, the girls tennis team will not feel that excitement.
The only school in the LCL besides Watkins Memorial that offers the sport is Granville. As a result, the Warriors will not compete in a league this fall.
"It's unfortunate, but we can't worry about that," coach Shawn Walter said. "I think Newark (which opted to remain in the OCC-Ohio Division) and Granville are the only (other schools) in the whole county that have girls tennis."
Walters wants his players to focus on what they can control, namely to improve. Among the team goals is to win both matches against Granville. The Warriors play the Blue Aces on Sept. 3 at Granville and Sept. 10 at home.
"The team lacks varsity level experience, but we do have big numbers (26 players in the program) and I have seen great competitive spirit, athleticism and improvement from the first day of practice," Walter said. "The key to our success will be the development of younger, first-year players and their ability to increase team depth."
Watkins Memorial, which finished 8-8 overall, placed sixth in the OCC-Capital Division and did not have any Division I district qualifiers last year, returns two letterwinners in seniors Megan Jamison and Bre Lampron.
Jamison and 2013 graduate Cheyenne Fletcher finished sixth at second doubles in the OCC-Capital tournament last season and Lampron placed seventh at second singles.
The Warriors opened Aug. 13 with a 5-0 loss to Westerville South before beating Dresden Tri-Valley 3-2 on Aug. 14.
In both matches, junior Brandi Reed played first singles, Lampron played second singles and sophomore Kendall Whisman was at third singles.
Jamison and senior Sarah Fannin played first doubles against South and second doubles against Tri-Valley.
"Reed is a good athlete who also plays basketball and softball," Walter said. "She's starting to control her shot better rather than just rocketing it back. She moves real well and is developing a put-away shot.
"Lampron and Jamison are our co-captains. Lampron provides excellent leadership and conducts herself well on and off the court. She has a good rally ball and stays in points. Plus, she's consistent."
Vying for playing time are juniors Laura Boster, Sam Marosis and Libby Hatton, sophomore Julia Robertson and freshman Kelli Wright.
Boster and Hatton played second doubles against South and Hatton and Marosis played first doubles against Tri-Valley.
Atchison, Hayes back for girls golf team
Junior Devon Atchison and sophomore Emily Hayes have returned to lead the girls golf team.
Last season, Atchison averaged 96.1 strokes over 18 holes and Hayes averaged 101.3.
"Devon has two years varsity experience. She is very dedicated to the game and has really stepped up early as a leader for the team," coach Tiffany Shaeffer said. "Devon takes her time and analyzes a shot, even when she is frustrated.
"Emily has one year of varsity experience. She is positive and has improved on not allowing a bad hole to influence the rest of her round."
Also on the team are senior Renee Theibert, juniors Alexis Cornely and Samantha Robinson and sophomores Lindsay Banaszak, Chelsea List and Sydney Robinson.
Theibert, Cornely and Robinson are new to the sport, according to Shaeffer.
"(Theibert) seems to have a very natural swing and is dedicated to improving by putting in extra practice besides what we have scheduled," Shaeffer said. "(Cornely) is very good about analyzing a shot and playing the smart shot even if it means not getting as much distance. During practice, she is also open to asking for and taking advice on how to play different shots.
"Samantha Robinson is excited to be playing and always has a positive attitude. I have already seen improvement in her swing and scores."
Watkins Memorial, which did not have any Division I district qualifiers last year, opened Aug. 6 by placing third (421) in the Top 19 Invitational at Pine Hill behind Pickerington North B (351) and Dublin Jerome B (371).
Atchison carded an 84 and was co-medalist and Hayes shot an 92.
The Warriors then finished last (443) in the first round of the Division I MOGGL tournament Aug. 7 at Mentel Memorial behind Watterson (328) and DeSales (395) before placing 10th (421) in the 17-team Early Birdie Tournament on Aug. 13 at Minerva Lake behind champion Watterson (321).
In addition to the MOGGL, Watkins Memorial is competing in the LCL this season after placing third in the OCC-Ohio a year ago. The LCL Preseason Tournament was held Aug. 15 at New Albany Link.
"Our goals are to show improvement in at least one area of our game each time we play," Shaeffer said. "We want to be as competitive as we possibly can given our inexperience. We also want to make sure we have a good mental game and not allow a bad shot or a bad hole to negatively influence the rest of our game."
Boys golf team has three district hopefuls
The boys golf team has returned three letterwinners in juniors Jarod Worcester, Drew Dixon and Brandon Ward.
"Worcester, Dixon and freshman Michael Griffin all have a chance to qualify for (the Division I) district (tournament). It's a matter of who plays well that particular day," coach Greg Stone said. "All three need experience with pressure and need some work on their short game."
Watkins Memorial, which finished 10th in the 13-team sectional at Granville Golf Course and did not have any district qualifiers last season, is competing in the LCL this season after placing sixth in the OCC-Capital a year ago.
Worcester averaged an 81.5 over the four rounds of the OCC-Capital tournament last year to make second-team all-league. He also led the Warriors at sectional a year ago with an 83.
Rounding out the roster are senior Bryce Hartley, sophomore Dillon Sullivan and freshmen Carter Helwagen and Cody Stonebraker.
"Our goal is to finish in the top three in the LCL," Stone said. "The key to our success will be avoiding the big numbers for our fourth, fifth and sixth scorers. We're young overall."
Watkins Memorial opened Aug. 8 by finishing 13th (350) in the 14-team Fairfield Federal Invitational at Turnberry behind champion Pickerington North (289).
The Warriors finished fourth (334) in the LCL Preseason Tournament on Aug. 13 at New Albany Links behind Johnstown (318), Granville (324) and Heath (333) and ahead of Newark Catholic (347), Northridge (359), Lakewood (380), Utica (381), Licking Valley (388) and Licking Heights (438).