Although his team has played a limited number of matches because of bad weather, first-year coach Anthony Paletta is continuing to build a new culture in the Whitehall-Yearling High School boys tennis program.
Paletta gave the team April 26 and 27 off so he could attend an Ohio Association of Student Councils conference in Fort Jennings. Despite their coach not being available, nine players met for a voluntary practice April 26.
"If I'm there or not, they're out there playing tennis," Paletta said. "No matter if practice goes to 5:30 (or) 6 p.m., they're there to dark. I have to tell them, 'Make sure you call your parents. Make sure they know where you're at and you're OK.' They like to challenge each other. It's really cool.
"I think people within the school are noticing the tennis team is different from years past."
The Rams were 0-5 overall and 0-4 in the MSL-Ohio Division before playing London on April 30. Whitehall also played Groveport on May 1 and Hartley on May 2.
"I definitely like what I see," Paletta said. "It's been hard because of the weather. The kids get all pumped up and then the match gets canceled. I have seen tremendous improvement. Having those matches pushed forward, it's allowed us to focus on technique (and) get some more hours of practice in, and because of that we've seen tremendous growth. I see us bonding together strongly as a team."
Kenny White, the only senior on the team, has been playing first singles.
Paletta has been impressed with the progress of sophomore Nemedi Geda, who is in his first season with the program.
Geda moved from Ethiopia before the beginning of high school and after not participating in sports as a freshman, he decided to join the tennis team at the urging of sophomore teammate Kaleb Regassa.
"I used to like to play tennis (in Ethiopia)," said Geda, who has been sharing time at second singles with freshman Raymond Zhen. "I'm glad I did it. I'm having fun. I've taken a lot of lessons. I was never this good when I began, but I'm a lot better now."
Junior Seth Coleman and sophomore Jacob Clark have been playing first doubles, and Regassa and freshman Adonay Estifanos have played second doubles.
Paletta said he has focused on small achievements like Zhen and Geda each winning a game in a 5-0 loss to Columbus Academy on April 10.
The change of culture also is evident in the team's appearance, as it purchased new polo shirts, pullovers and caps thanks mainly to assistant coach Chris Davis, who also coaches at the collegiate level.
"Because of the new uniforms, they feel more confident with the way they play," Paletta said. "There's been a transformation from when we first started the season."
Paletta said Dimitri Teague has been another invaluable assistant coach. Davis and Teague, who are both volunteer coaches, have donated rackets to the program.
"Between Dimitri and Chris, it's been great," Paletta said. "They've been focusing on the technique and getting people to know about us, building them up, and it's allowed me as head coach to be able to organize the matches. They're priceless."
Whitehall will play in a Division I sectional tournament May 10 and 12 at a site to be determined. The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to district May 17 at Hilliard Bradley and May 19 at Upper Arlington.
Paletta hopes to keep his team active in the offseason. He's arranging for his players to attend summer camps.
"I want to get these kids some experience (and build their) passion," Paletta said.
Softball team closes in on league title
The softball team entered its game against Worthington Christian on May 1 looking to secure at least a share of its first league title since 2000.
The Rams were 6-1 in the MSL-Ohio before playing the Warriors.
London entered the week at 4-1 in the league, with games remaining against Grandview on April 30 and May 2 and Bexley on May 1.
Whitehall was 10-6 overall before playing Lakewood on April 30. It opens the Division II district tournament Tuesday, May 8, at home against 20th-seeded Marion-Franklin, with the winner playing at ninth-seeded Buckeye Valley in the second round May 10. The Rams are seeded 12th of 22 teams.
Through 16 games, Madison Stiffler was batting .547 with two home runs and 18 RBI, and Trinity Johnson was hitting .537 with five home runs, 34 runs and 24 RBI. Makayla Barber was 5-1 in the circle and was batting .438 with one home run and 26 RBI.
"The team is definitely achieving its No. 1 goal of improving as the season goes on," coach Brian Anderson said. "We have really improved both on defense and hitting. (I give) big props to Kaila Daugherty and Amanda Stewart, who have stepped up their pitching with Makayla being limited due to a shoulder injury."
Baseball team earns first win
The baseball team earned its first win of the season, defeating Worthington Christian 5-1 on April 26 in the first game of a doubleheader. The host Warriors won the second game 11-4.
Mitchell Webb earned the win in the first game.
"We really got a strong pitching performance from Mitchell," coach Bill Welsh said. "We're trying to fight through some injuries. We hope to continue to improve and finish the season on a positive note."
The Rams were 1-17 overall and 1-7 in the MSL-Ohio before playing Academy on April 30.
Whitehall plays at St. Charles on Thursday, May 3, and then begins the Division I district tournament Monday, May 7, at 24th-seeded Westerville Central. The winner plays at 10th-seeded Pickerington Central in the second round Wednesday, May 9. The Rams are seeded 48th of 48 teams.
Track teams compete at Thomas
The boys and girls track and field teams competed in the 15-team Gary Smith Invitational on April 28 at Thomas Worthington.
For the boys, Keon Freeman was sixth in the discus (123 feet, 7 inches) as Whitehall finished 15th (10 points) behind champion Thornville Sheridan (112).
For the girls, Liana Betts was sixth in the discus (106-2) as the Rams finished 15th (5) behind champion Thomas (106).
Below are the coming schedules for the Whitehall-Yearling boys tennis and track & field teams:
May 3 -- Home vs. Teays Valley
May 7 -- Home vs. Fisher Catholic
May 8 -- Home vs. Canal Winchester
May 9 -- vs. Beechcroft at Woodward Park
TRACK & FIELD
May 8, 11 -- MSL-Ohio meet at London