Ben White plans to focus on simple goals as he begins his first season as coach of the Whitehall-Yearling High School girls tennis team.
"Individually, I just like to work on their forehands, backhands, serves, those kind of things," said White, whose team opens Tuesday, Aug. 20, with an MSL-Ohio Division match at Columbus Academy.
White replaced Chris Kondracke, who resigned after two seasons with the program.
"I've gotten a chance to get to know them over the summer with some of the practices that we've had," he said. "I've taught them quite a bit. The reception has been warm."
White also replaced Kondracke as boys tennis coach last spring.
The girls team is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2012 season in which it finished 3-12 overall and 0-5 in the MSL-Cardinal/Ohio.
White said his first priorities are to win a match early in the season and add depth to a roster that had seven girls in the preseason. Whitehall held its first practice Aug. 10.
All seven girls are returning players.
"They do have experience," White said.
Courtney Price, the only senior, is the captain.
"We're very excited to start our year off," she said. "It's my senior year and I'm captain this year, so I'm very excited. Our team is very close. We're very determined to do our best, try hard and try to be better than we were last year."
Also back is sophomore Angela Li, who teamed with Price last season to finish 1-1 in doubles in a Division II sectional tournament at Academy.
The other returning players are juniors Ariana Oldham and Manalee Patel and sophomores Claudia Fuentes, Zi Wong and Amanda Wyman.
"We're trying to drum up some support and find some other people," White said.
The Rams will compete in a realigned MSL-Ohio that also includes Academy, Bexley, Grandview, London, Madison Plains and Worthington Christian.
White expects defending league champion Academy to again be the team to beat.
"(One) of the goals that I have set is we're going to try to win a (league) match," White said. "I guess they haven't won any league matches in the past couple of years. We're looking at trying to win something in the league."
New challenges await girls volleyball team
Girls volleyball coach Danielle Smith enters her fifth season hoping a couple of changes help her team bounce back from a 6-17 season a year ago.
The Rams open Saturday, Aug. 17, with a tri-match at Franklin Heights against the host Falcons and Briggs.
Whitehall will play in a realigned MSL-Ohio that no longer includes the Licking County schools that held the top five spots in last year's league standings.
Newark Catholic finished first last season at 13-1, followed by Licking Valley (11-3), Heath (10-4), Lakewood (9-5), Granville (6-8), Bexley (4-10), Whitehall (3-11) and Columbus Academy (0-14).
Like Whitehall, Academy and Bexley have remained in the MSL-Ohio. The league also includes Grandview, London, Madison Plains, West Jefferson and Worthington Christian.
"The girls are pretty excited about the new league, so that's playing a factor in their excitement and commitment with their hard work because they really want to show these new schools that they can be somebody to contend with," Smith said. "I think we're going to be much more competitive."
The other notable change is the Rams should be playing their home matches at the renovated high school after playing home matches last season at Old Rosemore Middle School.
The Rams return three players with significant varsity experience, including senior Andrea Seberig, who plays multiple positions and had 145 digs last season.
"We're switching leagues and we're excited to make a new name for ourselves," Seberig said. "All these teams that we have played in the past have been playing since they were in third grade. They've been together for so long. Now that we're playing some teams at our level, I'm really excited to show them what we're really made of."
Also back are senior setter and outside hitter Tierra Copley (130 assists last season) and senior setter and outside hitter Kayla Williams (98 assists, 44 digs).
Senior utility player Rebekah Young also returns.
"My four seniors will be the leaders," Smith said. "We're going to be scrappy."
Other players are juniors Sammy Day (utility player), Tyra James (middle hitter) and Madison Schmidt (libero) and sophomores Bridget Gallagher (utility player), Mykela Hollinshead (middle hitter/setter) and Austi Spaulding (middle hitter).
"We're getting there," Smith said. "We're working on what we need to get done. I enjoy working with the girls, especially since a lot of them I've coached when they were in middle school and I've seen them since they were young, so it's kind of nice to stick with them and watch them grow as players and into young ladies."
A key loss to graduation was middle hitter Melanie Gilmer, who was honorable mention all-league last season after leading the team with 121 kills.