Wolves head into season without top player
Ken Berlin has plenty on his mind as he prepares for his second season as coach of the Worthington Kilbourne High School girls tennis team.
The Wolves have moved from the OCC-Central Division to the OCC-Cardinal, where they will compete against six new opponents and Hilliard Darby, which also has moved from the OCC-Central.
Plus, one of his top expected returnees might not be able to play this season after falling one match short of advancing to the Division I state tournament a year ago.
Junior Claire Metka is battling injuries and won't start the season with the team.
"We won't know until after the season starts whether she will play some or not at all," Berlin said, while not disclosing the injury. "She may not be cleared medically at all, so we've got some adjustments to make. There's a number of ways we can work the lineup now."
Metka and senior Kelly Jiang moved from the singles courts last season to doubles for the postseason. They finished second in the sectional at Upper Arlington and reached a district quarterfinal at Hilliard Davidson before losing 6-2, 6-3 to eventual state champions Sarah Stein and Lauren Bellinger of Dublin Jerome.
Jiang returns at first singles and classmates Tori Deibel, Alex Malone and Jenna Towslee also are back for the Wolves, who open Tuesday, Aug. 21, at league foe Westerville South.
Deibel played first doubles last season, while Malone and Towslee saw time at second doubles. Towslee also played third singles.
"Kelly is a battler and great all-around player with a good serve who can bang at the baseline and set up points," Berlin said. "She's got a great volley game and net game, and she's just a wonderful leader and role model who the girls respond to and gravitate toward. She sets the example by being a hard worker.
"I also am extremely pleased with Tori and all the work she put in during the offseason getting ready for a big senior year. She's a co-captain with Kelly and the difference in her this year is like day and night. I couldn't be prouder of her."
The Wolves finished 7-7 overall last season and placed fourth in the OCC-Central with 37 points after going 4-3 in duals. UA (72, 7-0) won its 23rd consecutive league title. Dublin Coffman (54, 6-1), Davidson (46, 5-2), Kilbourne, Thomas Worthington (29, 3-4), Darby (18, 2-5), Central Crossing (9, 1-6) and Westland (3, 0-7) rounded out the standings.
In the OCC-Cardinal, Jerome (77, 7-0) won and was followed by Olentangy Liberty (54, 6-1), Westerville Central (42, 5-2), Dublin Scioto (37, 4-3), Olentangy (22, 2-5), Westerville South (19, 3-4), Westerville North (16, 1-6) and Marysville (1, 0-7).
Liberty, Marysville and Olentangy are in different OCC divisions this season. Hilliard Bradley has joined Kilbourne and Darby as OCC-Cardinal newcomers.
Berlin expects sophomore Elizabeth Borchers and freshman Erica Chen to be on varsity, with juniors Marissa Lazaroff and Sharon Chan and freshman Anna Zellar vying for the remaining positions.
Boys coach to help Thomas' girls team
A deeper roster and the addition of assistant coach David Albert has Jill Fergus beaming as she begins her second season as the coach at Thomas.
"We added six freshmen and that enabled us to have a j.v. team this season," Fergus said. "Then to have David Albert, the head boys coach, come in and be coach to the young girls is going to be awesome. He'll get them ready for the future and we can continue to try to build the program."
Thomas opens Thursday, Aug. 16, at Davidson in an OTCA match and begins OCC-Central play Tuesday, Aug. 21, at UA.
The Cardinals finished 7-8 overall last season and fifth (29, 3-4) in the OCC-Central behind champion UA (72, 7-0). Liberty and Marysville have replaced Kilbourne and Darby in the OCC-Central.
Thomas returns five players who competed in the Division I sectional at UA: seniors Essi Mignanou and Sravani Hari, junior Monica Chang and sophomores Elizabeth Chiu and Molly Maxwell.
Mignanou was the only Thomas player to win a match at sectional, where she lost in the second round of singles. Chang also played singles, Hari and Maxwell played doubles and Chiu also was on a doubles court.
Also competing for spots are senior Achinthya Sivalingam, junior Jingwen Zhang, sophomores Katelyn Howard and Veronica Mendez and freshmen Marriella Briones, Jordan Dodson, Vosh Hallowell, Emily Schroeder, Nanako Takeyama and Tatjana Vujovic.
"I think we will have a winning record because we were so close last year and we have so many girls back," Fergus said.
"We lost some matches 3-2 and I think we can reverse those close ones this year. We have a lot of girls with experience and that is important in those close matches."