Shawn Morris is in his second tour of duty as Hilliard Darby High School girls tennis coach this season, replacing Erika Little, who guided the Panthers for eight seasons.
Morris is a veteran on the Darby tennis scene, having served as an assistant from 2002-06 before leading the girls program from 2007-09. In addition, he's been an assistant with the boys team since 2001.
"We had about 30 girls try out and we're very excited about the competition and cohesiveness of the group," said Morris, whose team opened Aug. 15 against Davidson and begins OCC-Cardinal Division play Thursday, Aug. 16, as host to Delaware. "We're still enjoying a competitive tryout process with all the girls."
The Panthers return four starters from a team that finished 10-6 overall last season and went 2-4 in the league to finish fifth behind champion Dublin Jerome (6-0).
The returnees are seniors Sydney Davis, Kelsie Huss and Caitling Su and junior Nidhi Patel.
Huss reached a district-qualifying match in singles before losing in the Division I sectional at Bradley last season. Patel also played singles at sectional, while Davis and Patel were paired in doubles and went 1-1, losing to the second seed.
Completing the roster are seniors Mia Miller and Sascha Smoot and sophomore Makenzie Robertson.
Entering the season, Morris expected Huss, Smoot and Su to fill out the singles lineup, with Davis and Patel at first doubles and Miller and Robertson at second doubles.
"We don't view doubles as a demotion since every court counts equally toward the team," Morris said. "Some players are stronger at doubles and may even be stronger than a singles player, but we like to have flexibility to move kids back and forth when necessary to do what's best for them and the team.
"Our main goal is to make sure from day one that everyone is improving and having fun. Tennis is a life sport that we are excited to have so many girls participating in. The girls are working extremely hard in practice, with many coming out in July to participate in conditioning and open hitting."
Trio back to lead boys golf team
Juniors Michael Beard, Marcus Hunter and Adam Tivin return to lead the boys golf team.
Last season, Tivin led the Panthers with a nine-hole average of 43.2, followed by Beard (44.5) and Hunter (45.3).
Tivin had the second-best team average in the four-round OCC-Cardinal tournament (87.3), behind 2018 graduate Tim Hales (84.5) and ahead of 2018 graduate Ty Spangler (87.5), Beard (90.8) and Hunter (92).
Tivin carded a team-best 89 to tie for 43rd of 71 golfers in a Division I sectional at Darby Creek last year. Hunter shot a 91 and Beard posted a 95 for Darby, which placed 11th.
Also on the roster are junior Trey Matthews, sophomores Zach Brandewie and Cam Voelker and freshman Jared Wells.
"Adam has worked hard on his game this summer," 10th-year coach Brent Bower said. "I look for him to be much improved. He should be No. 1 in the lineup. After that, Michael, Marcus or Jared could all play No. 2. We've got some guys who can shoot solid scores."
The Panthers went 5-19 in the OCC-Cardinal last season to finish sixth behind champion Jerome (23-1).
In the first round of this year's league tournament Aug. 7 at Apple Valley, Darby shot a 344 to place fifth behind Jerome (298), Olentangy Berlin (317), Delaware (319) and Bradley (323) and ahead of Thomas Worthington (348), Worthington Kilbourne (349) and Dublin Scioto (369).
Hunter had a team-best 84, followed by Wells (85), Tivin (87), Beard (88) and Brandewie (97).
In the second round Aug. 13 at Turnberry, the Panthers shot a 362 to finish last behind Jerome (296), Bradley (311), Berlin (319), Delaware (330), Kilbourne (346), Thomas (350) and Scioto (360). Tivin led Darby with an 83.
"I think we're deeper than last season," Bower said. "Our goal is to finish in the top half of the league and to advance to district from sectionals as a team."
Three girls return for new golf coach
Three members of the girls golf team have returned to welcome first-year coach Clay Rice.
Junior Morgan Bair and sophomores Maria Hayes and Madison Hoschak are back for the Panthers, who went 4-20 in the OCC-Cardinal last year to place sixth behind champion Jerome (24-0).
Rice replaced Jack Radich, who guided the program the past three seasons.
"I'm excited for the season, but we play in a rugged OCC division with Jerome and others," said Rice, who coached Teays Valley in 2015 and 2016 before taking a teaching position at Brown Elementary last fall. "I think we have some girls with potential, but we are a very young team, so our goal this year is to finish in the top half of the league.
"We have no seniors and just one junior. Being so young is a good news-bad news situation. The good news is that if we can keep everyone interested, we're going to get better and better over the course of a few years. So we need to retain what we have and try to grow in numbers, too. I'm looking forward to seeing how these girls progress for the next few years."
The Panthers have seven golfers on their roster, including four newcomers in sophomores Rebekah Malone and Bailey Miller and freshmen Isabelle Centeno and Maggie Warren.
Last season, Hayes was honorable mention all-league after averaging 106.3 in the four-round tournament. Hoschak and Bair both competed in three rounds and averaged 115 and 131, respectively.
Bair led Darby with a 105 in a Division I sectional at Westchester last year, followed by Hayes (112), Erika Opperman (117), Hoschak (118) and 2018 graduate Paige Martin (118). Opperman did not return for her senior season.
"Maria hits the ball well," Rice said. "She plays all summer long and is very committed. She drives it well for her age and her size. She's not very big.
"Madison and Morgan are works in progress. They both have potential and we'll be working on fine-tuning their games to improve their scores."
In the first round of the league tournament Aug. 8 at Westchester, the Panthers shot 476 to place sixth behind Jerome (338), Delaware (362), Bradley (388), Scioto (426) and Kilbourne (459). Berlin and Thomas did not have team scores.
Hayes led Darby with a 105, followed by Hoschak (113), Bair (124), Miller (134) and Centeno (161).
The second round was Aug. 15 at Royal American.
Aug. 6 -- Pickerington Central Invitational at Turnberry
Aug. 7 -- OCC-Cardinal at Apple Valley
Aug. 8 -- Marysville Invitational at Darby Creek
Aug. 11 -- Pickerington North Invitational at Turnberry
Aug. 13 -- OCC-Cardinal at Turnberry
Aug. 16 -- Davidson at Thorn Apple
Aug. 18 -- Kent Miller Colonial Fall Classic at Hiawatha
Aug. 23 -- Bradley at Darby Creek
Aug. 29 -- OCC-Cardinal at Darby Creek
Aug. 30 -- Dublin Scioto at Darby Creek
Sept. 5 -- Davidson at Heritage
Sept. 6 -- Canal Winchester at Darby Creek
Sept. 8 -- Grove City Invitational at Hickory Hills
Sept. 12 -- OCC-Cardinal at Denison
Sept. 13 -- Johnstown at Darby Creek
Sept. 19 -- Marysville at Darby Creek
Sept. 20 -- Davidson at Heritage
Sept. 22 -- Howlett Invitational at Worthington Hills
Sept. 26 -- TBA at Darby Creek
Sept. 27 -- Dublin Scioto at Darby Creek
Aug. 8 -- OCC-Cardinal at Westchester
Aug. 9 -- Airport Classic at Airport
Aug. 14 -- Thomas Worthington at Rolling Meadows
Aug. 15 -- OCC-Cardinal at Royal American
Aug. 22 -- Thomas Worthington at Rolling Meadows
Aug. 28 -- Davidson at Rolling Meadows
Aug. 30 -- OCC-Cardinal at Cooks Creek
Sept. 5 -- OCC-Cardinal at Mentel Memorial
Sept. 6 -- Marysville at Rolling Meadows
Sept. 10 -- Canal Winchester and Gahanna at Kyber Run
Sept. 18 -- Worthington Kilbourne at Rolling Meadows
Sept. 19 -- Canal Winchester at Westchester
Sept. 22 -- Marysville Invitational at Darby Creek
Sept. 26 -- Marysville and Dublin Scioto at Darby Creek
Sept. 27 -- Bradley and Davidson in Superintendents Cup at Thorn Apple
Aug. 15 -- at Davidson
*Aug. 16 -- vs. Delaware
*Aug. 21 -- at Worthington Kilbourne
*Aug. 23 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
Aug. 27 -- vs. Westland
*Aug. 28 -- vs. Dublin Jerome
*Aug. 30 -- at Olentangy Berlin
*Sept. 4 -- vs. Thomas Worthington
*Sept. 6 -- at Bradley
Sept. 10 -- at Grove City
Sept. 12 -- vs. Bexley
Sept. 17 -- vs. Westerville North
Sept. 20 -- vs. Olentangy
Sept. 22 -- Kim Shepherd Doubles Classic at Davidson
Sept. 24 -- vs. Reynoldsburg
Sept. 26 -- vs. Gahanna
Oct. 1 -- vs. Marysville
Below are the coming schedules for the Darby boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball teams:
Aug. 21 -- At Westerville South
Aug. 17 -- At DeSales
Aug. 21 -- Home vs. Westerville South
*Aug. 21 -- Home vs. Delaware