Upper Arlington Roundup: Ella Hazelbaker sets high standard on tennis court

DAVE PURPURA
dpurpura@thisweeknews.com
Senior Ella Hazelbaker has been the Upper Arlington girls tennis team's first-singles player since her freshman season and is a two-time Division I state qualifier in doubles. As the postseason approaches, she hopes to help lead the Golden Bears to the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association team state championship.

A few victories come to mind when senior Ella Hazelbaker reflects on her career with the Upper Arlington girls tennis team.

Hazelbaker most fondly remembers the two times she qualified for the Division I individual state tournament in doubles as well as helping the Golden Bears finish third in the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I state team tournament last year.

Another highlight is a 7-5, 7-6 win Aug. 27 over Olentangy Liberty's Dani Schoenly, an Ohio State commit and two-time state doubles champion.

However, it was a loss during her freshman year that helped Hazelbaker feel like she belonged at first singles, a court she won at the beginning of that season and has held ever since.

"We split sets and everybody was really impressed that we even did that," Hazelbaker said of a 6-7, 6-3, 1-0 loss to Watterson standout Claire Ghidotti, then a senior who now plays at Dayton. "I didn't win but I kind of said to myself that I could really do this. I fit in.

"I was honestly just really excited to be playing on the high school team because it was my first year. I didn't have too many expectations for myself, but the longer I played first singles, the more I expected myself to win and do well."

Hazelbaker and the Bears have sustained their tradition of success, as they were 10-1 overall before playing Columbus Academy on Sept. 21 and recently won the OCC-Central Division championship for their 31st league title in 32 seasons.

Hazelbaker was 9-2 at first singles entering the week and had teamed with second-singles player Megan Basil in two doubles tournaments.

"Stability is the perfect word for her. She's consistent, she fights for every point (and) she runs everything down," coach Shaun Stamps said. "Over the past few years, she's learned to control her emotions. That court can bring a lot of pressure.

"The past few years, she's beaten the players she might not have beaten a few years ago. The matches she should win, she is. And the matches she could win, she puts herself in a position to have a chance and she's won a lot of those."

Hazelbaker and classmate Noah Mizer were district runners-up as freshmen and lost their only match at state, and last year Hazelbaker went 1-1 at state with 2019 graduate Wendy Shi.

"Doubles is more (about) coming into the net and attacking. For singles, you're just trying to make shots and attack where you can," Hazelbaker said. "Doubles is just completely different."

UA will play Reynoldsburg in an OTCA district quarterfinal on a date to be determined.

"We know what we're capable of," said Hazelbaker, who hopes to play in college. "We think we can do even better this year."

Girls soccer team off to fast start

Andrew Kessinger had yet to lose as a high school head coach entering the week, and the girls soccer team's first-year coach said he was "humbled" by his squad's performance during an undefeated start.

"It's humbling being a first-year coach to see the girls buy in like they have. I appreciate their efforts and my coaching staff," Kessinger said. "Everybody is comfortable being uncomfortable with everything new they're learning.

"Our fitness and organization have been strong. Our varsity is 6-0-1 and our (junior varsity) A team has won seven games (entering the week) and we have zero lost leads. That's a tribute to the girls' fitness, knowledge and dedication."

After tying Grove City at 1 in the opener Aug. 21, UA won its next six games. The Bears' scheduled OCC-Central opener Sept. 15 at home against Hilliard Bradley was postponed to Oct. 3, and a non-league game against Buckeye Valley scheduled for Sept. 19 also was postponed.

Kampbell Stone had a team-leading seven goals and six assists through seven games. Abby Reisz -- a Tennessee commit who had been expected to play goalie but returned to the field at the start of the season because of an arm injury -- had four goals and an assist.

In Reisz's place, freshman Sally Patton recorded three shutouts in the Bears' first seven games as they outscored their opponents 21-7.

"Kampbell is off to an incredible start. A lot of girls set 20 points as a goal for the entire season, so for her to get that by the middle of September is impressive," Kessinger said.

"Adiah Bonham has been huge for the defense. I think she's one of the best center defenders in the region. It's been a team effort everywhere on the field."

Competition drives boys golfers

Even with scores not as low as he'd like this season, boys golf coach Troy Arbaugh has seen the competition he expected from his lineup.

Each of UA's top five averaged between 78.75 and 83.25 during the four-round OCC-Central tournament, in which the Bears went 8-12 to finish fourth behind co-champions Olentangy Liberty and Olentangy Orange (both 18-2). Daniel Goldberg led the Bears in average during league play, followed by Dylan Cullman and Jud Turner (both 80.5), Brady Catalano (81.5) and Jack McLaughlin (83.25).

"Even though the low scores haven't been all that low at times, the guys have pushed through," Arbaugh said. "We play in arguably the best league in the state. It's a murderer's row. We're a young team and at times, it showed. We have guys with a lot of potential that we haven't totally tapped into yet."

Catalano, a freshman, shot a 70 on Sept. 12 during the Trojan Invitational at Findlay Country Club.

"That surprised the heck out of me but it was fun to watch," Arbaugh said. "That's a big round in a good field and it can give you some momentum."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

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