Central coach happy with effort
When Westerville Central High School girls tennis coach Donovon Barrett tells his team to get into matches "as hard as they can," he doesn't necessarily mean with skill.
"I want them to be competitive from an athletic and tennis standpoint, not just with skill," he said. "A lot of the girls are starting to get it. Even if they come up short, I'm pretty happy with their effort overall as a group."
The Warhawks entered a Sept. 11 league match against Westerville North with records of 5-4 overall and 0-2 in the OCC-Cardinal Division. Central lost six of its top seven players from a year ago to graduation, with the only returnee being senior and No. 1 singles player Hannah Thorp. Nine girls had filled seven roster spots entering this week, including a few junior varsity players on occasion.
Juniors Brista Phillips, Amber Ramsey and Gina Scarborough have alternated at Nos. 2 and 3 singles, but Scarborough has seen most of her action at No. 1 doubles with senior Morgan Chudik.
Seniors Julia Borsukevich, Martha Borsukevich and Molly Duraney and junior Mackenzie Moushey have been the other doubles players.
"These girls' comfort level is much higher at this point of the season," Barrett said. "I'm looking forward to the future. We've got chances to get these girls a lot more experience. When they've been the most competitive is when they've grasped the basic fundamentals then implemented them in matches."
Coach pleased with Warriors' progress
Largely unsure what to expect from his team when he took over as North's coach in August, C.J. Simmons has found plenty of ways to measure progress.
The Warriors won their second match of the season Sept. 7, defeating Mount Vernon 4-1. That exceeds their win total from last year, when they went 1-14.
"Our schedule has tough match after tough match," said Simmons, whose team was 2-5 overall and 0-2 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing Central on Sept. 11. "We haven't necessarily worried too much about technical stuff. My hope is the girls get smarter on the court. They've certainly improved that way. Early in the season, there were a few times where a ball would go right down the middle of the court. That isn't happening much anymore. They're a lot more aware of what to do in certain situations."
North's earlier win was against Hilliard Darby, 3-2 on Aug. 21.
Simmons gave some credit for the team's progress to the leadership of seniors Miranda Goddard, Calley Nelson, Ruth Payne, Sheryl Sommers and Neqina Wright.
"The girls are getting smarter," he said. "It's great when you see your girls putting points together and dictating the pace of a match instead of having it dictated to them."
Wildcats dealing with inexperience
Because most of South's players didn't touch a tennis racket until ninth grade -- and many opponents have teams full of girls who started in seventh grade if not earlier -- Wildcats coach Ryan French doesn't have to tell his team that sometimes, they face an inherent disadvantage.
But French also emphasizes that the best experience comes from playing, even if things don't go well. South crossed a major hurdle Sept. 5, earning its first victory of the season by defeating Newark 5-0.
"The girls are getting better, especially the doubles players," said French, whose team entered this week 1-6 overall and 0-2 in the OCC-Cardinal. "A lot of our issues just come from a lack of experience. I just remind them they can't gain experience without playing. Our girls have started to create some errors by the other team and started erasing some of their own bad habits."
The Wildcats have two seniors, Ama Kwarteng and Loan Quan, and largely have been powered by juniors Aleah Carey, McKenna Davis, Lexi Hunkler, Kristen Rudge and Tara Thompson. Carey and Hunkler have alternated between No. 3 singles and No. 1 doubles on occasion.