Top of lineup providing edge for Kilbourne
The Worthington Kilbourne High School girls tennis team is gearing up for a strong finish.
The Wolves were 5-5 overall and 3-2 in the OCC-Cardinal Division before playing Westerville North on Sept. 18. Among their victories was a 4-1 win over Thomas Worthington on Sept. 14.
Kilbourne swept the singles courts against the Cardinals, with Kelly Jiang beating Monica Chang 6-1, 6-2 at No. 1, Erica Chen defeating Essi Mignanou 6-1, 6-3 at No. 2 and Jenna Towslee beating Sravani Hari 6-4, 6-1 at No. 3.
The Wolves also won at second doubles, as Elizabeth Borchers and Anna Zellar held off Molly Maxwell and Achinthya Sivalinggam 2-6, 6-1, 6-3. The Cardinals won at first doubles, where Marriella Briones and Elizabeth Chiu beat Tori Deibel and Alex Malone 3-6, 6-0, 6-1.
"I like the way we have performed and we're seeing improvement from all the girls," Wolves coach Ken Berlin said. "We always feel like we have a chance because we're pretty confident at our top two singles spots and our first-doubles court. They give us a chance and, if one of them doesn't come up with a victory, we need to find a third win at third singles or second doubles. That's the way it usually works. You need them all to carry some weight."
Through 10 matches, Jiang was 7-3 and Chen was 6-4.
"This is Kelly's second year at first singles and she has improved dramatically," Berlin said. "She's settling in there and her mental makeup has been terrific. She's the anchor of the team, without a doubt.
"Erica, boy for being a freshman, she's so composed. She does an outstanding job of not getting too high or too low after a point, set or match. She has a consistent game and she's controlling the points and the pace."
Berlin also has been pleased with the chemistry of Deibel and Malone at first doubles. Although the seniors played doubles last season, they weren't partners. Through 10 matches this year, they were 4-4 as partners.
"They both have showed so much progression from a year ago," Berlin said. "They've got great chemistry for being first-year partners. They really feed off each other, their games mesh. Tori is the aggressor and Alex is the steady, keep-the-ball-in player."
Towslee has rotated between third singles and second doubles and Borchers has spent time at third singles.
"We're still mixing and matching and trying to find the right balance between third singles and second doubles," Berlin said. "We've also been able to work some of the younger girls into the lineup and get them experience, depending on our opponent. So, thus far, it's been a very good season and we're expecting it to get even better, although we have several quality programs left to play."
Cardinals coach likes team's progress
Thomas coach Jill Fergus likes the progress her team has made this season.
The Cardinals were 6-5 overall before playing Hilliard Davidson on Sept. 18.
"We are getting better and better with every match," Fergus said. "I think our doubles teams are becoming more comfortable with their partners, and the singles players are all learning and gaining confidence."
Through 11 matches, Mignanou was 7-4 at second singles and Briones and Chiu were 7-4 at first doubles. Fergus also likes progress being made by Chang at first singles, Hari at third singles and Maxwell and Sivalinggam at first doubles.
"Chang has really become more consistent and is getting mentally tougher with every match, and that's something that is important in this sport," Fergus said. "Mignanou just always plays tough and has her head and focus in (a match) at all times. Hari also has been playing very well lately.
"Chiu and Briones are really starting to jell together now and they play well off one another. Briones really likes the net and she's so good up there. I also think Achinthya Sivalinggam is working really hard, competing well and she's done well at learning doubles strategies."
The Cardinals have an opportunity to finish with a winning record after finishing 7-8 last season. Fergus credits assistant coach David Albert, who coaches the boys team in the spring, with helping to create a positive atmosphere within the program.
"I think all the girls are learning, getting tougher mentally and putting the pieces together," she said. "David Albert deserves a lot of the credit because the girls really work hard for him and are willing to listen to him. I'm excited because I think we're going to get stronger and play our best tennis at the end of the season."