Pressure to excel motivates Upper Arlington
Upper Arlington High School girls tennis coach Shaun Stamps said his team feels pressure to do well every season based on its past success.
Rather than let that pressure bother them, the ninth-year coach said his players have learned to use it as motivation to play to their potential.
The Golden Bears, who finished 16-2 overall last year, open Friday, Aug. 17, by playing host to Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown and begin OCC-Central Division play on Tuesday, Aug. 21, at home against Thomas Worthington.
"We always look forward to the challenge of setting high goals and going after them," said Stamps, whose team has had a singles player or doubles team place in the top four in the Division I state tournament every year since 2007. "Our players understand what past teams have accomplished, and they look forward to having a chance to add to that."
Back to lead UA are senior captains Elaine Cloern and Andi Smart and sophomore Audrey Berger.
Last year, Berger and Cloern went 3-1 and placed third in doubles at state after beating Springboro's Aundrea Busse and Julie Brockman 6-1, 6-3 in the third-place match at Elysium Tennis Center in Plain City.
Freshman Olivia Kompa also is expected to play a key role for the Bears this year.
"We have a lot of returning players, which is nice, and we've got some freshmen who could help us," Cloern said. "Of course, there's always some kind of pressure on us because of what we've done in the past. But each year is a new year, so we each just have to take care of our own responsibilities, and if we do that, our team will do well, too."
Last season, UA went 7-0 in OCC-Central matches and won titles on four of the five courts in the league tournament. The Bears won the league championship with 72 of a possible 77 points, finishing ahead of Dublin Coffman (54, 5-2), Hilliard Davidson (46, 6-1), Worthington Kilbourne (37, 4-3), Thomas (29, 3-4), Hilliard Darby (18, 2-5), Central Crossing (9, 1-6) and Westland (3, 0-7). The championship was the Bears' 23rd in a row.
Winning league titles were Berger at second singles, Smart at third singles, 2012 graduates Caroline Pema and Grace Buse at first doubles and junior Beniva Ganther and senior Lauren Stechschulte at second doubles. Cloern was league runner-up at first singles.
As part of OCC realignment this summer, Darby and Kilbourne moved to the OCC-Cardinal and were replaced by Marysville and Olentangy Liberty, both of which had been in the OCC-Cardinal.
Six of the Bears' seven players who played in the sectional at UA last year qualified for the district at Davidson.
At district, Berger and Cloern went 2-2 in doubles and placed fourth to advance to state, Ganther and Smart lost in the first round in singles and Pema and Buse lost in the first round in doubles.
The Bears also advanced to a Division I Ohio Tennis Coaches Association district final, where they lost to eventual state champion Dublin Jerome 3-0.
"We're looking to defend our OCC title first and then we'll worry about doing the best we can in the team tournament and qualifying as many girls as we can to state," Stamps said. "We're looking for a strong doubles team because we always have strong singles players and we need to win at doubles to take some of the pressure off our singles players."