Girls Tennis: Cody Rannebarger eager to guide Westerville South

FRANK DIRENNA
fdirenna@thisweeknews.com
Cody Rannebarger is in his first season as coach of the South girls tennis team. Rannebarger, a 2014 South graduate who played for the boys tennis squad, replaced Ryan French, who stepped down after eight years.

Former Westerville South boys tennis player Cody Rannebarger is embracing the challenge of guiding the school's girls tennis program.

A 2014 graduate, Rannebarger has replaced Ryan French, who stepped down after eight seasons as coach.

The Wildcats opened Aug. 13 with a 5-0 loss to visiting Watkins Memorial. They began OCC-Capital Division play Aug. 19 against Dublin Scioto.

Rannebarger, 24, served as a girls and boys assistant coach under French since 2015.

"It definitely makes my job easier," he said of previously serving as an assistant. "They know me. Ryan was a fairly good mentor. Especially with (the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic) going on, I've had to learn a lot of new things, a lot of guidelines that I was previously unaware of."

Junior Mary Pedrozo has returned and again is playing first singles.

"I'm really excited to get back in and play matches," she said. "It's been awhile. I was worried we might not have a season, but I was glad practices were still on and I was still getting to hit.

"I want to improve as a player and be better than last year. I want everybody to improve, really bond together and support each other."

Also back are junior Leanne Ngo at second singles and junior Kyra Lesmerises at third singles.

Juniors Ama Asare and Julia Speicher will play first doubles early in the season, and junior Nhi Ton and sophomore Selah Gitonga will be at second doubles.

"My top priority is just for the girls to get some experience and have some fun," Rannebarger said. "If we can break even (record-wise) that would be great. We have a good lineup where we stand a chance to at least win a few matches. We have a strong team, so I'm hopeful that we can win some."

Last season, the Wildcats finished 7-8 overall and 0-5 in the OCC-Buckeye.

Pedrozo has been pleased with the transition of Rannebarger to head coach.

"There's not that much difference," she said. "(Rannebarger's) coaching style is more chill. He's really fun."

Warriors feature experienced lineup

North returns five starters from last season and has added a potential standout.

Senior Aubrey McMahon is playing first singles for a fourth season, and senior newcomer Lilly Metzger is at second singles. Metzger played doubles at DeSales last fall but is currently home-schooled.

Senior Emma Weisgerber has moved from doubles to third singles.

McMahon and Metzger both finished second on their courts in the season-opening Delaware Invitational on Aug. 8.

"Singles is definitely our strong point and doubles is a question mark," third-year coach Max Quinton said. "Aubrey is a four-year starter and four-year No. 1 for us. Lilly Metzger is playing really well and Emma has moved from doubles and is doing a great job."

Quinton said his four doubles players will be selected from a pool of eight, including three returning starters in juniors Alexa Absalom and Liz Amici and sophomore Ella Musser. Also in the mix are seniors Kayla Cochran, Riley Farrell and Sydney Greenstein, junior Haylie DiCarlo and sophomore Lizzy Vasselo.

"We're still working on doubles because we're dealing with the (coronavirus pandemic) stuff and only having an hour and a half (for workouts)," Quinton said. "We've tried so many combinations so far, and we still haven't come up with anything."

The Warriors had their first match Aug. 12, losing to DeSales 3-2 as Metzger and Weisgerber won their courts.

North finished 2-15 overall and 1-4 in the OCC-Buckeye last season. It has moved to the eight-team OCC-Capital and opened league play Aug. 18 against Franklin Heights.

"I don't know what to expect with the new league, but we're not playing a lot of the bigger schools that always have great players," Quinton said. "I'm not sure we will win our league, but we will have a better record."

--Scott Hennen

Burks, Baker ready to lead Warhawks

Seniors Levi Burks and Vivian Baker entered the season expecting to lead Central.

Both reached the Division I district tournament last season, with Burks going 0-1 in singles and Baker and 2020 graduate Madison Lane going 0-1 in doubles.

Coach Brad Baker, who is in his third season, believes both players could advance further this fall.

"I think we're better this year," coach Baker said. "We still have Levi and my daughter, Vivian. Those are four-year letterwinners."

Burks should play first singles, with Baker seeing action in singles and doubles.

Sophomore Sidney Choo will play second singles and freshman Lauren Muniu is at third singles.

Baker also will team with junior Kaylie Gibson at first doubles.

"Both of those girls could be playing singles for us, but together they're just really talented," coach Baker said. "They have quick hands at the net and they're fearless."

Juniors Reese Muhlenkamp and Alyssa Boyd are playing second doubles.

Seniors Hannah Lyons and Dilara Sen and juniors Annabel Krueck and Audrey Rupp also are looking to contribute.

Central opened with a 3-2 loss at Pickerington Central on Aug. 11 and defeated Big Walnut 5-0 in its OCC-Ohio opener Aug. 13.

Burks injured her back against Big Walnut. Coach Baker said Burks could be out at least two weeks, with Choo taking her place at first singles.

Baker likes the program's continued development, as there are 33 girls participating.

Last season, the Warhawks were 9-10 overall and 2-3 in the OCC-Buckeye.

"We only lost one senior last year," Baker said. "It's the same crew minus (Lane). We basically have everybody back except our second-singles player. I have a luxury and some flexibility."

--Frank DiRenna

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At a glance

CENTRAL

*Coach: Brad Baker, third season

*Top players: Vivian Baker and Levi Burks

*Key loss: Madison Lane

*Last season: 9-10 overall

*2019 OCC-Buckeye standings: Olentangy Orange (5-0), Olentangy (4-1), Olentangy Liberty (3-2), Westerville Central (2-3), Westerville North (1-4), Westerville South (0-5)

NORTH

*Coach: Max Quinton, third season

*Top players: Aubrey McMahon, Lilly Metzger and Emma Weisgerber

*Key losses: Emily Buss, Sophia DiCarlo, Emylee Preston and Anyce Sewell

*Last season: 2-15 overall

*2019 OCC-Buckeye standings: Orange (5-0), Olentangy (4-1), Liberty (3-2), Central (2-3), North (1-4), South (0-5)

SOUTH

*Coach: Cody Rannebarger, first season

*Top players: Kyra Lesmerises, Leanne Ngo and Mary Pedrozo

*Key losses: Ozichi Fah, Dani Koehler and Elaina Murray

*Last season: 7-8 overall

*2019 OCC-Buckeye standings: Orange (5-0), Olentangy (4-1), Liberty (3-2), Central (2-3), North (1-4), South (0-5)