Wellington Roundup: Griffin Biernat making most of final prep tennis season for Jaguars

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Wellington senior Griffin Biernat won five of his first six matches at first singles.

Long before he became a key member of the Wellington boys tennis team as a freshman in 2018, Griffin Biernat had several opportunities to witness what kind of preparation he’d need once he joined the program. 

Griffin’s older brother, 2018 graduate Connor Biernat, came through the program as well and the two teamed to capture the Division II state doubles championship in 2018. 

“(Connor) started playing and I kind of grew up watching him,” Griffin said. “That kind of got me into it, and here I am.” 

After helping the Jaguars capture their second consecutive OTCA state team championship in 2019, Griffin was poised to be one of the team’s top singles players last spring before the season was canceled. 

This spring, he’s asserted himself as one of the area’s top singles players in Division II. 

After losing his opening match to St. Charles’ Reece Yakubov 6-0, 6-2 on April 5, Griffin won his next five matches. St. Charles is a Division I program. 

The season after winning state, Griffin teamed with Milan Gonela and they reached the second round of the district tournament before falling to eventual state runners-up Arie Tuckerman and Jack Madison of Columbus Academy. 

Biernat beat Madison 6-0, 6-4 on April 14 at first singles, but Wellington lost the match 3-2. 

The Jaguars were 7-2 overall and 2-1 in the MSL-Ohio Division after defeating Worthington Christian 5-0 on April 20. 

“It’s a different year this year, but we’ve been doing well,” coach Tommy Haddow said. “(Griffin’s) done a great job. He’s a leader. He should make a good run and hopefully at states. His serve and his forehand are big, and he’s pretty strong mentally. He just hits a nice, hard ball. His power, when it’s on, is hard to beat.” 

The Jaguars also have won the last two team titles.

In 2018, Griffin and Gonela won the deciding match at first doubles in a 3-2 victory over Cincinnati Indian Hill in the final. 

A year later, Griffin won at third singles in a 3-0 victory over Youngstown Ursuline to win the title. 

Connor Biernat is competing for Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, but  Griffin hasn’t announced his college decision. 

Griffin said he and his brother played as often as possible last spring once the pandemic hit. 

“(Not playing last spring) really showed me how much I missed tennis and not being able to compete at the level that I’ve been doing for so many years,” Griffin said. “It was pretty difficult and frustrating, but it’s OK.” 

The tournament draw is May 2, with both sectionals to be held at Columbus Academy during the second full week of May. 

In the team tournament, Wellington is playing Bexley in a district semifinal April 29, with the winner to face Academy or West Jefferson in the final. 

“It’s going well right now,” Griffin said. “I’ve been playing pretty well, pretty consistently. I’ve got a couple things I want to improve on. My serve has gotten better, and I think I’ve grown a little more as a person, maturing a little more, and my focus and strategy in matches has gotten a lot better.” 

Lacrosse team looks

to build confidence 

After going 3-11 in 2019 and now with a new coach in Kailee King, the girls lacrosse team entered the season with a higher degree of uncertainty than many teams. 

Things have begun to solidify, however, as the Jaguars were 3-4 following a 19-2 loss to Westerville South on April 22. 

Wellington beat Buckeye Valley 13-12 on April 13 and will play host to Bexley on May 4 and Academy on May 8 before traveling to CSG on May 13 in other MSL-Ohio games. 

“A lot of our team are new players and we only have seven returnees, so for us to (start) 3-3 is awesome,” King said. “I see so much growth every single day. They’re realizing things I've been saying and they can’t wait to get back out there.” 

Wellington beat Trenton Edgewood 15-7 on April 17 as junior attacker Macy Croft finished with six goals and one assist, sophomore midfielder Cassidy Chenelle scored four goals and senior midfielder Lauren Sabol added three goals.  

Junior goalie Jameela Askira and junior defender Rhea Singh have led the defense. 

“(Croft has) been awesome,” King said. “She for sure has great attack knowledge, a great lacrosse IQ and definitely has a lot of speed. She has great accuracy and her passing and feeding is phenomenal. She has a wide-range of skills. 

“If there’s one thing I want to see from my girls is that I want their confidence to grow. I want to get goals from every single girl on the team and have amazing stops on defense. We’ve got to get that confidence up and trust in the team and each other and that will skyrocket us.” 

Wellington's Alexis Burkhalter (left) celebrates with teammates Lina Grohovsky (center) and Simmone Crosby-Wallace after hitting a home run against Madison Christian on March 30. Burkhalter was hitting .647 and Grohovsky was batting .299 for the Jaguars, who were 0-8 after losing to Whitehall 15-4 on April 22.

Softball team going 

through growing pains 

The softball team entered the season with only two players with significant previous varsity experience in senior Lina Grohovsky (3B/C/P) and junior Alexis Burkhalter (3B/1B/C/P). 

After losing to Whitehall 15-4 on April 22, the Jaguars were 0-8 overall and 0-4 in the MSL-Ohio Division. 

“We’re super inexperienced,” coach Me-Chelle Burkhalter said. “I have one senior captain and my daughter (Alexis) is a junior, so they’re doing almost all of the heavy lifting.” 

Through six games, Alexis Burkhalter was hitting .647 while batting second in the lineup and Grohovsky was batting .299 while hitting cleanup. They had 15 of the team’s first 17 hits. 

Junior Lexi Robbins (1B) and sophomore Maya Avery (SS) also are playing key roles, according to coach Burkhalter. 

While Alexis Burkhalter and Grohovsky have seen time at pitcher, freshman Charlotte Rost is another who has been gaining experience in the circle. 

Among the closest losses have been a 12-8 setback March 30 at Madison Christian and a 23-10 loss April 16 at Shekinah Christian. 

“With our pitching, we’re getting it over the plate,” coach Burkhalter said. “We’re pitching to where other teams can hit it and we’ve just got to keep working on our defense. We’ve had some bright spots on defense.” 

julrey@thisweeknews.com 

@UlreyThisWeek