Having returned its top five players, the Whetstone girls tennis team is taking aim at its 10th consecutive City League championship this fall.
Last season, the Braves finished 10-4 overall, went 3-0 in the City-North Division and defeated West 5-0 in the City final.
"We've got many girls who have worked hard all summer, so we should actually be better than we were last year," 11th-year coach Bucky Walters said. "Our top two singles players were both freshmen last year, so I know they'll be stronger and we have several other kids who can hit it well and play fundamental tennis."
Sophomore Stella Thompson returns at first singles, while classmate Alysia Swinehart is back at second singles.
"Stella went through the Junior Tennis program last winter at Olympic (Indoor Tennis) and rallied with a lot of the top players in central Ohio," said Walters, whose team opened Aug. 12 against Whitehall and played Hilliard Davidson on Aug. 13. "Although I haven't seen her this summer because she's been in Germany with her family, I know she's working on her game because her father is quite a good player and loves to play, too.
"Alysia has a strong game and can give Stella a battle. She's also a hard worker and they're both smart players."
Also returning after competing in the City final and a Division I sectional a year ago are seniors Emma McAdams and Anita Tamang and junior Maizy Pratt. Other returnees are seniors Grace Djaodo and Kelsey Henderson and sophomore Izzy Park.
In the City League Coaches Tournament last season, Thompson defeated Swinehart 8-3 in the singles final and McAdams and Pratt won the doubles title.
"I can't say enough about how pleased I am with our summer workouts," Walters said. "We had three time windows three days a week and I saw most of the girls, as well as most of our boys team showing up to work on their games."
The Braves begin their quest for another City title Aug. 28 when they play host to International.
Golfers primed for another City title
The boys golf team appears well-positioned to make a push for another City title.
The Braves have returned four athletes who earned all-league honors last season when they won the City championship for the 10th time in 11 years.
Senior Spencer Ball was the overall league medalist a year ago with a nine-hole average of 38. Senior Jay Johnson (44), senior Nairan Normand (44.1) and 2019 graduate Victor Waitkus (47.1) also were first-team all-league.
Junior Brian Charnas (54.2) was honorable mention all-league.
"With four all-league golfers back, we're expecting a very solid year again," 11th-year coach Tom Philip said. "It's a great place to start from. Plus, we have depth with three other solid returnees in (seniors) Ford Buterbaugh and Spencer Buterbaugh and (sophomore) Eli Krabill."
While Philip expects "great things" from his senior corps, he is hoping to add younger players to the program once school begins. The Braves currently have two newcomers in juniors Daniel Brewer and Eric Verway-Cohen.
"Right now, we've got three kids who are not seniors on this roster," Philip said. "I'm hoping once school starts we will have others join the program. We usually do add at least one after school starts. With so many city kids working or without transportation until school starts, it's tough. But we want as many young kids in the program as we can get so we can start teaching them the game for the future years."
Whetstone will open the season Aug. 27 with league matches against Briggs and Northland at Mentel Memorial.
"We've got four kids -- Spencer, Nairan, Brian and Eli -- who volunteer at Champions (Golf Course) in the summer and that allows them access to the range and they also practice on their own," Philip said. "I think all of the kids got their work in this summer and that's exciting.
"I think Spencer has the type of game and work ethic that gives him a chance to be a (Division I) district qualifier this year. He hits it well for distance, but still needs to shore up his short game to reach that level."
Below are the coming schedules for the Whetstone boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Aug. 19 -- At Sparta Highland
Aug. 21 -- Home vs. Marion Harding
Aug. 19 -- At Sparta Highland
Aug. 15 -- Home vs. DeSales
Aug. 19 -- At Westerville South
Aug. 17 -- At Grandview with Grove City Christian
Aug. 21 -- At Whitehall