Orange working to set lineup
Olentangy Orange High School girls tennis coach Mark Latham knows his plan of attack this season.
"I lost my No. 1 doubles team," he said. "So that's what we're going to be working on, the doubles portion."
Latham is lamenting the first in a few seasons that he's without Ayla Hood and Lindsay Spragg.
"They were really strong together for two years," said Latham, who is in his fifth season leading the program.
Hood and Spragg, both 2012 graduates, made program history as the first Pioneers doubles team to qualify for the district tournament.
The only position known for sure is junior Anna Sanford at first singles, so any number of players could slide into the first doubles roles Latham would like to fill. Seniors Sneha Rajendran, Karlee Greene and Kendra Hopeck, junior Madison Wolfe and sophomores Jessica Phelps and Madison Riley round out the Pioneers' top seven, and any pair might be the answer to Latham's doubles questions.
"I'm actually deeper than I have ever been before," he said. "But I don't have Lindsay and Ayla. I'm hoping putting these varsity girls together, hopefully they create a good scenario."
Spragg and Hood joined Sanford at district last year after taking fourth place in the Division I sectional at Upper Arlington, losing to UA's Grace Buse and Caroline Pema 6-2, 6-0 in a consolation match. Sanford won a sectional title, beating Liberty's Sydney Power 6-2, 6-0 in the final.
In the district tournament at Hilliard Davidson, Hood and Spragg lost to Hilliard Bradley's Lauren Thai and Ashley Thai 6-3, 6-1 in the opening round. Sanford defeated Dublin Jerome's Emma Stein 6-1, 6-3 in the final to capture the district championship.
Sanford, who finished the season 34-1 and also won the OCC-Capital Division's first-singles title, beat Aurora's Madelyn Gilley 6-2, 6-2 in the first round of the state tournament at Elysium Tennis Center in Plain City before losing to Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame's Sandy Niehaus 6-2, 6-7 (3-7), 6-1 in a quarterfinal.
Orange finished 10-6 overall. In the OCC-Capital, it earned 55 points and went 6-1 to place second, behind New Albany (68, 7-0) and ahead of Bradley (51, 5-2), Big Walnut (31, 4-3), Delaware (24, 3-4), Watkins Memorial (21, 2-5) Mount Vernon (12, 1-6) and Franklin Heights (6, 0-7).
Bradley has moved to the OCC-Cardinal and was replaced by Olentangy.
"The expectation isn't to come out with this really strong team and beat all these top-five or top-10 programs," Latham said. "It's to try and win as many matches as possible against teams in the top 20."
The Pioneers open Saturday, Aug. 18, at Chillicothe and play host to New Albany to open league play Tuesday, Aug. 21.
Patriots adjusting to departures, injury
Fifth-year Liberty coach Christine Kaeding didn't like losing Lauren DeVincent, Alyssa Miller and Jenny King to graduation, but she said she won't dwell for too long on what's missing from her team.
"I'm going to miss the three of them, their sportsmanship and leadership," she said. "But the girls that are coming up are equally as strong, so we should be fine."
At the beginning of the season, Kaeding also will be without her standout first singles player, junior Sydney Power, who had wrist surgery in July.
"I'm hoping she comes back as strong as before," Kaeding said. "Hopefully everything is good to go by the end of the month. She's really itching to get back on the court."
Also returning are seniors Alicia Di Maccio and Olivia Groves and sophomore Sonia Chhabria. They'll be joined by freshmen Alexia Meyer, Anna Delaney and Avivah Wang.
"To have the four returning girls and then to bring in the three freshmen is an asset," Kaeding said.
In last year's Division I sectional tournament at UA, Power fell to Orange's Sanford 6-2, 6-0 in the title match. Di Maccio fell to UA's Andi Smart 6-1, 6-4 in a quarterfinal while DeVincent lost to UA's Beniva Ganther 6-2, 6-1. In doubles, Groves and King lost to Worthington Kilbourne's Kelly Jiang and Claire Metka 6-1, 6-1 and Veethi Koralla and Miller fell to UA's Elaine Cloern and Audrey Berger 6-0, 6-0.
Power was eliminated in a district quarterfinal by Jerome's Stein 6-3, 6-4.
Liberty went 10-4 overall last season and took second (54, 6-1) in the OCC-Cardinal, behind Jerome (77, 7-0) and ahead of Westerville Central (42, 5-2), Dublin Scioto (37, 4-3), Olentangy (27, 2-5), Westerville South (19, 3-4), Westerville North (16, 1-6) and Marysville (1, 0-7).
The Patriots and Marysville have moved to the OCC-Central, while former OCC-Central teams Kilbourne and Hilliard Darby have moved to the OCC-Cardinal.
The other OCC-Central teams are Central Crossing, Davidson, Dublin Coffman, Thomas Worthington, UA and Westland.
"There's some top-notch teams in the league and some great competition out there for us," Kaeding said. "I feel it's more evenly matched and I'm excited about it."
Liberty opened by playing host to Gahanna on Aug. 15. Its OCC-Central opener is Tuesday, Aug. 21, at Central Crossing.
Braves looking for more improvement
Olentangy received a reversal of fortunes along with a new coach last season.
The Braves beat Marysville 5-0 in the second match of the year to end a 14-match losing streak that started in 2009.
Coach Jeff Luxenburger guided Olentangy to a 6-7 overall record and fifth place (27, 2-5) in the OCC-Cardinal.
Senior Megan Brdicka snapped another bad streak when she put a halt to the Braves' nine-year run without a representative in the district tournament.
In the Division I sectional tournament at Pickerington Central, Brdicka beat Teays Valley's Adrien Leatherwood 6-1, 6-1 to place third. Rachel Ratnasingham and Kayla White were defeated in the second round in singles. In doubles, the teams of sophomore Pallavi Mannava and Khyl Bachinski and junior Grace Cramer and Courtney Doyle also fell in the second round.
Bridcka lost to New Albany's Jane Haffer 6-0, 6-3 in the district tournament at Davidson.
Ratnasingham, White, Bachinski and Doyle graduated, while Brdicka, Cramer and Mannava are expected to return.
The Braves changed leagues following an OCC realignment in the summer. Switching with Bradley, Olentangy joined the OCC-Capital while the Jaguars moved to the OCC-Cardinal.
Olentangy opened at home against Bloom-Carroll on Aug. 15. It begins league play at Big Walnut on Tuesday, Aug. 21.