Being the defending Division II state team champion might have changed the perception of the Wellington School boys tennis team even though its top player from last season is no longer with the program.

"They're out to get us," eighth-year coach Tommy Haddow said.

The Jaguars lost three-time state singles qualifier Connor Biernat to graduation, but they returned enough talent to remain one of the state's top teams.

After going 12-4 and winning the MSL-Ohio Division title last season, Wellington was 4-0 after beating Dublin Coffman 3-2 on April 8. The Jaguars opened league action April 5 with a 5-0 win over Whitehall.

Biernat and his brother, Griffin, teamed to win the state doubles championship. Then during the deciding match of a 3-2 victory over Cincinnati Indian Hill that gave the Jaguars the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association team title, Griffin Biernat teamed with Milan Gonela to win 7-5, 3-6, 6-1.

Griffin Biernat, a sophomore, and Gonela, a junior, are filling the second and third singles spots behind junior Trevor Ball, who was state runner-up in singles and played second singles during state team tournament last season.

Senior Adam Sorrels, who won his third-singles match during the state team final a year ago, is competing in singles and doubles.

Senior Anarag Reddy, junior Ben Marshall, sophomore Evan Manley and freshman Brayden Chawla are other key players.

"I like the team," Haddow said. "It's a little bit older of a team than last year. I hate losing Connor, but I'm going to do a lot of changing (of the lineup). I'm going to change different partners until we can figure it out.

"Our No. 1 goal is getting back to team states, and right now we're lucky to have the players. I'm sure Trevor would like to take one more step and win the finals."

Freshman class lifts baseball team

The baseball team has 10 returnees from last season, when it went 8-19 overall and 5-9 in the MSL-Cardinal.

In addition, there are nine newcomers, including a strong freshman class.

"Our roster has quite a bit of versatility," 14th-year coach Craig Jones said. "A number of our players are able to play a few different positions. We believe this translates into a much more solid team defensively."

Wellington opened April 1 with a 13-5 loss to Grove City Christian and beat Millersport 13-10 on April 2 in league games. The Jaguars were 1-4 overall and 1-1 in the league before playing Zanesville Rosecrans on April 8.

Senior catcher Trevor McCraw, who hit .408 with 36 RBI last season and was batting .429 through five games, is the top returnee. He has committed to play for Case Western.

Seniors Ian Frim (CF/INF/P), Jack Haney (1B/OF/P), Andrew Haraburda (OF/P), Ryan Ouellette (utility) and William Roy (INF/DH), juniors Ryan Ray (INF/C) and Josh Wooddell (INF/P) and sophomores Rory O'Sullivan (utility) and Declan Unverferth (utility/OF) also are key returnees.

Haney hit .447 with 13 RBI in 13 games last season.

Freshmen Robert Boyd (1B), Chase Ouellette (3B/P) and Caleb Wooddell (INF) all are playing key roles as well.

Also on the roster are seniors Mac Hammett and Amir Phillips, sophomores Matthew Reid and Sam Schwartz and freshmen Elliot Harpham and Parker Haskett, all of whom could play a number of positions.

"We have nine new players this year, including (three) freshmen," Jones said. "All of these boys bring a wealth of baseball experience and ability."

Offense a strength for softball team

During its first five games, the softball team averaged 15.2 runs.

The Jaguars, who went 7-14 overall and 3-9 in the MSL-Cardinal last season, have 10 seniors as well as a freshman class that has had some immediate contributors.

"We've got 10 seniors and six freshmen, so we have all that energy," eighth-year coach Me-Chelle Burkhalter said. "A lot of them are (multi-sport athletes). I'm kind of lucky because the middle of the field is super experienced. So far, the freshmen have done well on the varsity level across the board."

Wellington was 3-2 overall before playing Northland on April 9. The Jaguars opened April 1 with a 22-4 victory over Grove City Christian and lost to Millersport 14-13 on April 3 in league games.

Wellington also posted wins over Walnut Ridge (14-4 on April 2) and Centennial (13-12 on April 6) and lost to Worthington Christian (21-14 on April 6).

Seniors Megan Leino (C), Aquila Simmons (C), Camille Simpson (P) and Soleil Tibbets-Barnes (CF) are the top returnees. Juniors Rosemary Haskett (SS) and Lexi Horan (2B) also are key players.

The other seniors are Shaina Belford (utility), Jaedyn Gaines (OF), Megan Johnson (utility), Skyler Perry (OF), Veronica Poster (INF) and Olivia White (OF).

Among the freshmen is first baseman Alexis Burkhalter, the coach's daughter.

Infielder Clara Evans also has been an impact freshman.

Junior Sophie Haskett (3B/OF), sophomores Carina Dison (2B), Lu Godfrey (utility) and Lina Grohovsky (C/3B) and freshmen Blais Blackburn (OF), Ayana Cooper-Stevens (P), Drew Ober (utility) and Lexi Robbins (1B) round out the roster.

"This is going to be a dynamic team with strong leadership and fresh energy," coach Burkhalter said. "We're planning to be a very competitive team in the league this spring."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Wellington baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball and boys tennis teams:

BASEBALL

*April 11 -- At Harvest Prep

*April 12 -- Home vs. Fairfield Christian

April 13 -- At Morral Ridgedale (DH)

*April 15 -- Home vs. Harvest Prep

*April 16 -- At Grove City Christian

BOYS LACROSSE

April 11 -- At Columbus Academy

GIRLS LACROSSE

*April 11 -- Home vs. Columbus School for Girls

*April 16 -- At Columbus Academy

SOFTBALL

*April 11 -- At Harvest Prep

*April 12 -- Home vs. Fairfield Christian

*April 15 -- Home vs. Harvest Prep

*April 16 -- At Grove City Christian

April 17 -- At Madison Plains

BOYS TENNIS

*April 11 -- At Worthington Christian

April 13 -- Home vs. Massillon Jackson

April 16 -- At New Albany

April 17 -- At Hilliard Davidson

*League contest