Girls Tennis: Dublin Jerome expects another strong season

JARROD ULREY
julrey@thisweeknews.com
Senior Lalasa Nagireddy will likely play first singles for the Jerome girls tennis team and fifth-year coach Ken Berlin. Nagireddy and Arya Dudipala won the Division I doubles title at the state tournament last season.

A sign to Dublin Jerome girls tennis coach Ken Berlin of how unique 2020 has been is what has been happening with the weather since his team began practicing Aug. 1.

In addition to dealing with social distancing restrictions because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the Celtics have had "perfect weather," according to Berlin.

"Usually it's 90 degrees and we have to worry about heat stroke, but (Aug. 11) was absolutely perfect," he said.

One thing that likely won't change is Jerome being one of central Ohio's top programs.

Last season, the Celtics finished 18-1 overall and won the OCC-Cardinal Division at 7-0 for their 16th consecutive league title. Jerome, Hilliard Darby, Olentangy Berlin and Thomas Worthington remain in the OCC-Cardinal and now are joined by Olentangy and Marysville after the league's latest realignment.

Jerome, which lost to Upper Arlington 3-2 in a Division I district semifinal of last year's Ohio Tennis Coaches Association team tournament, opens OTCA action against Pickerington Central or Pickerington North on a date to be determined.

In last year's Division I state tournament, Arya Dudipala and Lalasa Nagireddy beat teammates Reagan Resor and Katherine Wang 6-4, 7-5 to give the program its first doubles championship since 2011 and fifth overall. Dudipala and Nagireddy are seniors, and Resor and Wang are 2020 graduates.

Dudipala elected not to play this season but Nagireddy likely will be at first singles when Jerome opens Tuesday, Aug. 25, at home against Thomas.

Seniors Sudi Pelleru and Ashley Tarrant and sophomore Ella Oleson also are returnees, and freshmen Adayla Coakley and Lydia Foster figure to hold spots in the lineup.

Junior Audrey Cook has joined the program after competing in cross country the past two years.

Juniors Giovanna Ozoude and Erin VanHuffel should see action after previously playing junior varsity.

"I'm looking forward to it," said Berlin, who is in his fifth season. "It's a good mix of some older returning talent and then we have a lot of new players as well, whether it be first-year varsity players or players who are brand new to the program in general. We're ready to work hard."

Rising talent excites Shamrocks

Of the five athletes who represented Coffman in last year's Division I district tournament, three have returned.

The Shamrocks also have two other key players back, and they have added a freshman who will be a key part of the lineup.

"I'm excited," ninth-year coach Brett Hundertpfund said. "We've got a lot of talent."

Coffman opened Aug. 13 by beating Wellington 3-2 and plays its OCC-Central opener Aug. 25 at Olentangy Liberty. After the latest OCC realignment, Coffman and Liberty are joined in the league by Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Davidson, Olen tangy Orange and UA.

The Shamrocks placed second (4-1) in the OCC-Central last season behind UA (5-0) and finished 12-5 overall.

Sophomore Dasha Chistyakova is playing first singles after reaching a quarterfinal at district a year ago.

Freshman Pritika Ghosh-Choudhari is at second singles, with senior Cassi Shough expected to be at third singles.

Senior Ria Singhal teamed with 2020 graduate Abby Walker to lose in the first round of district in doubles, and sophomore Emily Yoshino teamed with 2020 graduate Claire Feit to reach a district quarterfinal.

Junior Geetha Anne also is a returnee, and juniors Cici Jobe and Anna Krueger are others looking to contribute.

"Dasha is looking really good," Hundertpfund said. "She's been playing all summer and is a tournament player. Pritika is right there as well. She looks amazing. She's a tournament player so I'm excited. It's always awesome to have a freshman of that caliber. Cassi is a senior and has been playing singles most of her career. She's going to be a really solid third-singles player. Emily Yoshino is probably the best athlete on the team. She's a state-level gymnast, a pole vaulter and she's just also a great tennis player as well. Ria is going to be a good (player) in doubles and Geetha's got some varsity experience."

Irish feature new-look lineup

Scioto will have a new look this season, as fourth-year coach Sean Gilbert has had to replace six starters lost to graduation.

The lone returning starter is senior Ashima Srivastava, who has moved to first singles after playing third singles the past two years.

"Fortunately, we have Ashima, who has a lot of experience and can talk to the girls, but it is going to be 'throw them in and see how they do' because we have six new faces on varsity," Gilbert said.

Megha Joish will play second singles and Aayushi Patel will play third singles. Both are juniors.

Gilbert expects senior Khushi Patel and junior Faith Smith to play first doubles and junior Suhani Arya and freshman Mio Awano to play second doubles, at least early in the season.

Freshman Cassandra Phrakornkham also should see time on varsity.

"When you're losing that many seniors, you're a little nervous going into the season, but I'm super proud of Ashima and Khushi for stepping up as seniors and filling that void of leadership," Gilbert said.

Scioto opened OCC-Capital play Aug. 19 at Westerville South and visits Worthington Kilbourne on Thursday, Aug. 20, for another league match.

The other teams in the realigned league are Big Walnut, Canal Winchester, Delaware, Franklin Heights and Westerville North.

The Irish finished 8-9 overall and 5-2 in the OCC-Cardinal last season.

"I'm interested to see how the league goes," Gilbert said. "I anticipate us being competitive. We keep Kilbourne and Delaware, so I'm familiar with their coaches and their programs. It's going to be interesting playing those new teams that we really haven't had any experience with in the last three years. I'm excited to meet the coaches that we're going to play and to play those new teams."

Scioto's courts have been renovated, including adding a sixth court. The team has trained at Davis Middle School as the new courts near completion.

"The new courts are exciting," Gilbert said. "We're very fortunate that the district stepped up and were able to not only give us new courts, but we went from having five courts to six courts. That's always beneficial to allow the girls to spread out and have more playing time."

--Frank DiRenna

sports@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSports

At a glance

COFFMAN

*Coach: Brett Hundertpfund, ninth season

*Top players: Geetha Anne, Dasha Chistyakova, Cassi Shough, Ria Singhal and Emily Yoshino

*Key losses: Claire Feit, Hannah Qin and Abby Walker

*Last season: 12-5 overall

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

JEROME

*Coach: Ken Berlin, fifth season

*Top players: Adayla Coakley, Lydia Foster, Lalasa Nagireddy, Ella Oleson, Sudi Pelleru and Ashley Tarrant

*Key losses: Kavya Alagappan, Arya Dudipala, Reagan Resor and Katherine Wang

*Last season: 18-1 overall

*2019 OCC-Cardinal standings: Jerome (7-0), Olentangy Berlin (6-1), Scioto (5-2), Hilliard Bradley (4-3), Delaware (3-4), Hilliard Darby (2-5), Thomas Worthington (1-6), Worthington Kilbourne (0-7)

SCIOTO

*Coach: Sean Gilbert, fourth season

*Top players: Megha Joish, Aayushi Patel, Khushi Patel and Ashima Srivastava

*Key losses: Maddy Baughman, Nicole Santoso, Peyton Shaffer and Maggie Szabo

*Last season: 8-9 overall

*2019 OCC-Cardinal standings: Jerome (7-0), Berlin (6-1), Scioto (5-2), Bradley (4-3), Delaware (3-4), Darby (2-5), Thomas (1-6), Kilbourne (0-7)