Girls Tennis: Central Crossing seeks to build winning culture

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Senior Irina Meleshchuk is among the top players for the Central Crossing girls tennis team, which opened Aug. 13 by defeating Canal Winchester 4-1. The Comets begin OCC-Buckeye play Tuesday, Aug. 25, at home against Lancaster.

On a steamy afternoon, Cody Hawkins wasn't making his Central Crossing girls tennis players do any more than he was willing to do.

The first-year coach was sweating while filling a slot on a doubles court during practice Aug. 10. One of his points of emphasis is creating a culture of success, and Hawkins wants to do his part to help the Comets reach that goal.

"I believe the key to success is creating a culture of success both on and off the court," Hawkins said. "It's a certain mindset that you have to buy into. If we don't have every single player buying into that mindset then we won't have a culture of success.

"I told them before practice that I hope they came in to work and ready to improve a certain aspect of their game. Every girl chats with me once a week about their goals. I tell them, 'you're not just coming here playing tennis, what do you want to improve?' "

Hawkins played high school tennis at Massillon Washington and competed in intramural tennis at Ohio State. He is a music teacher at Highland Park Elementary School.

"I always have loved the game, and I have a passion for kids and teaching," he said. "Obviously, tennis was a good way to combine my love of teaching and love of the game."

Junior Sophia Toscano is playing first singles after being on the second court last fall. Seniors Irina Meleshchuk and Emily Wright will play second and third singles, respectively.

"Last year, I learned to keep my focus in the game and that being able to move your feet is a big thing," Toscano said. "The pace will be faster (at first singles) and there will be a lot of intensity. I think it will be a big step forward."

Senior Alina Semchishin and sophomore Haley Young will play first doubles, with senior Lauryn Imler and junior Allison Antonoff at second doubles.

Seniors Dahana Garcia and Anna Sinyuk also will play doubles, and sophomore Ruth Semchishin will see time in singles.

"I think we have a lot of potential this season," Hawkins said. "We have a lot of talent out there."

Central Crossing opened Aug. 13 by defeating Canal Winchester 4-1. Winners were Meleshchuk and Wright in singles and the doubles teams of Alina Semchishin and Haley Young and Antonoff and Garcia.

The Comets have moved from the OCC-Central Division to the OCC-Buckeye. They begin league action Tuesday, Aug. 25, at home against Lancaster.

Chandler takes over Greyhounds

Grove City expects to have underclassmen playing in its top two singles spots in Josh Chandler's first season as coach.

Chandler succeeds Dan Witteman, who stepped down after 31 seasons, citing health reasons.

Gigi Hougland is expected to play first singles, with returnee Julie Moore at second singles. Both are sophomores.

"We're pretty excited because a lot of our varsity girls are sophomores and I even have a freshman that's competing for a varsity spot," Chandler said. "That's always good when you have young players that are into tennis and are able to hit the ball well. All of them want to stay after practice. They're young and they're motivated, which is good."

Also back is junior Grace Schaffer, who is expected to play third singles.

Seniors Bre Bellar and Emma Burke, junior Kathlyn Lutz and sophomore Victoria Townsend are competing for doubles spots. Bellar, Burke and Lutz are returnees.

Chandler said sophomore Carly Turner and freshman Meredith Walsh also are competing for playing time.

"I have three amazing seniors who have helped me out with everything," Chandler said. "All three have been awesome. They've been great to deal with."

The other senior is Julie Christensen, who will begin the season at the j.v. level.

The Greyhounds opened Aug. 18 at Central Crossing. They begin OCC-Ohio play Tuesday, Aug. 25, at New Albany.

"The league is pretty tough compared to last year," said Chandler, who also coaches the boys team. "We're playing New Albany, Westerville Central and Pickerington North. All are strong in tennis. We're going to be able to compete with most everybody on our schedule, so I'm excited for it."

Witteman underwent quadruple bypass surgery in October after suffering a heart attack while coaching the Greyhounds in a Division I sectional at Hilliard Bradley.

Chandler is a 2007 graduate of Central Crossing.

--Frank DiRenna

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At a glance

CENTRAL CROSSING

*Coach: Cody Hawkins, first season

*Top players: Irina Meleshchuk, Sophia Toscano and Emily Wright

*Key losses: Emily Creasap, Alina Marko, Katie Meleshchuk and Madison Wallner

*Last season: 3-10 overall

*2019 OCC-Central standings: Upper Arlington (5-0), Dublin Coffman (4-1), Marysville (3-2), Hilliard Davidson (2-3), Central Crossing (1-4), Westland (0-5)

GROVE CITY

*Coach: Josh Chandler, first season

*Top players: Emma Burke, Gigi Hougland, Julie Moore and Grace Schaffer

*Key losses: Olivia Norbut, Emma Smith, Josie Susi and Lexi Townsend

*Last season: 11-10 overall

*OCC-Ohio standings: Pickerington North (5-0), Pickerington Central (4-1), Gahanna (3-2), Grove City, Lancaster and Reynoldsburg (all 1-4)