Liberty's play excites coach
Freshman Alexia Meyer is playing first singles for Liberty, which was 10-6 before a match against Dublin Coffman on Sept. 18. Buy This Photo
Coach Christine Kaeding is looking forward to seeing what her Olentangy Liberty High School girls tennis team can accomplish during the final weeks of the season.
"It's just very exciting to see the growth we've shown and to know that this is such a young team to begin with," she said. "I'm seeing these girls become more mature with their games and off the court with every match.
"Their confidence is growing and I couldn't ask for a better group of young ladies. They want to improve and they're working hard, listening and trying their best."
The Patriots improved to 10-6 overall and 4-1 in the OCC-Central Division with a 5-0 win over Marysville on Sept. 17.
"Some of our losses were to heavy hitters -- Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto, New Albany, Upper Arlington and Columbus Academy -- so we've played some strong competition and we're using three freshmen in our lineup," Kaeding said.
Those freshmen are first-singles player Alexia Meyer and doubles players Anna Delaney and Avivah Wang.
Entering this week, all three had winning records in their matches -- Meyer was 12-6, Delaney was 12-5 and Wang was 10-8.
"Alexia is doing really well and rising to the challenge of being No. 1," Kaeding said. "She's been very consistent.
"Anna Delaney has been at first doubles with Olivia Groves, one of our two seniors. They've been taking lessons together and have become closer off the court. They read each other very well and just know what balls to hit and where the other one will be. You don't usually get that type of chemistry in high school girls tennis. But Olivia is a great mentor and so helpful."
Senior Alicia DiMaccio was 10-6 at second singles.
Sophomore Sonia Chhabria was 10-5 mostly at third singles for the Patriots, who also move Wang from second doubles to third singles at times.
More good news for Liberty is the return of Sydney Power. The junior, who was expected to play second singles after reaching a Division I district quarterfinal last season, had surgery on her left wrist in July.
"We got her back (Sept. 11) but she hasn't played since May, so we'll have to see how she progresses," Kaeding said. "We want to take it slow and not rush her because she's still recovering. She's been in the lineup once in doubles and she has some challenge matches she's got to play to prove she's ready to move up in the lineup."
The Division I sectional draw is Sunday, Sept. 23. The sectional tournaments will be held Oct. 4 and 6 at Hilliard Davidson, Pickerington Central, Reynoldsburg and Upper Arlington.
The OCC-Central tournament is Sept. 29 at Davidson.
Braves playing 'fairly well'
Sisters Megan Brdicka and Brianna Brdicka have given Olentangy a solid 1-2 punch at the top of the singles rotation and Pallavi Mannava has been consistent at No. 3, according to coach Jeff Luxenburger.
The Braves were second in the OCC-Capital with a 4-1 record -- New Albany entered the week 4-0 -- before playing Mount Vernon on Sept. 18. They close the dual portion of league play Tuesday, Sept. 25, when they play host to Delaware.
The OCC-Capital tournament is Sept. 29 at Orange.
"I think we're playing fairly well, really," said Luxenburger, whose team was 8-7 overall. "We've gotten some consistent play, although there are some teams in central Ohio that we just can't match up against."
Olentangy's league loss was to New Albany (5-0 on Sept. 11). Its wins were against Big Walnut (4-1 on Aug. 21), Orange (4-1 on Aug. 28), Franklin Heights (5-0 on Sept. 10) and Watkins Memorial (5-0 on Sept. 13).
Four of the Braves' losses have come against high-quality opponents in Pickerington Central (5-0 on Aug. 23), Hilliard Bradley (5-0 on Aug. 29), Upper Arlington (4-1 in an OTCA match Aug. 31) and New Albany.
"Megan is a smart player who is very good at using angles and trick shots," Luxenburger said. "She makes her opponents work hard to beat her. She's very level-headed and consistent.
"Bri is fantastic for a freshman. She's a more traditional baseline player with a lot of power. But she's also good at changing angles."
Luxenburger also is pleased with the first-doubles team of Grace Cramer and Sandhya Arya, as well as the play of Elyssa Ackerman at second doubles.
"Our doubles teams are starting to jell," he said. "Our first team has been improving after a rocky start. They are really learning to move together better and they're playing more solid on volleys."
Pioneers find 'right mindset'
Orange coach Mark Latham thinks his team is starting to find its rhythm as the regular season winds down.
"We struggled against some very good competition early, but now we're putting things together," he said. "I think we'll start adding to our win column and keep adding up wins in the (OCC-Capital) now.
"I think we've got some winnable matches remaining. We've just got to stay focused and play confident. We've been in the right mindset for about one and a half weeks now and we've got to continue that."
The Pioneers were 3-8 overall and 3-2 in the OCC-Capital before playing Big Walnut on Sept. 18.
Orange lost all six dual matches in August before breaking through by beating league foe Mount Vernon 5-0 on Sept. 4.
Sophomore Jessica Phelps has been playing No. 1 singles, with junior Madison Wolfe at No. 2. Sophomore Madison Riley and freshman Carly Vroom have shared time at No. 3.
"Jessica Phelps and Madison Wolfe have really started to play better and that has greatly improved their confidence," Latham said. "You can see it in the way they play."
Seniors Karlee Greene and Kendra Hopeck have moved from second doubles to first doubles. Senior Sneha Rajendran and freshman Yoon Su Kim complete the lineup.
"Sneha Rajendran and Yoon Su Kim began the season at first doubles and did fairly well, so they're pretty solid at No. 2 now that Karlee Greene and Kendra Hopeck have played well enough to move to No. 1."