Girls Tennis: Sydney Elliott, Stefanie Lehman primed to lead Bexley

SCOTT HENNEN
shennen@thisweeknews.com
Senior Sydney Elliott will play first singles for the Bexley girls tennis team after earning second-team all-league honors last season. The Lions defeated Delaware 4-1 in their season opener Aug. 12.

The Bexley girls tennis team lost five of its seven starters from last season to graduation, but 14th-year coach Shelby Cheses still expects the squad to have strong leadership at the top.

Seniors Sydney Elliott and Stefanie Lehman return after starting in singles last fall for the Lions, who went 13-4 overall and finished third (26 points, 5-2) in the MSL-Ohio Division behind Columbus Academy (42, 7-0) and Wellington (33, 6-1).

"I lost five girls from last year, but Sydney and Stef are pretty strong for us," Cheses said. "They were both district qualifiers, and they are pretty close in ability. They will win a lot of matches for us this year."

Elliott (second-team all-league) will play first singles and Lehman (honorable mention all-league) will be at second singles. Sophomore Leah Baumann will mostly play third singles.

Senior Olive Evans and sophomore Ava Foster will play first doubles, and senior Anna Brady and junior Audrey Bilotta will comprise the second-doubles team.

"Coach has been talking about wanting us to be playing more aggressively," Elliott said.

"A lot of times in girls tennis, we don't go into the net as much. I think we just feel more comfortable at the baseline. (Cheses) wants us to be aggressive and volley a bunch and hit approach shots and hit good serves."

Junior Sam Topolosky and freshman Mia Ehrsam also are vying for playing time.

The Lions defeated Delaware 4-1 on Aug. 12 in their opener.

Elliott and Lehman won in singles, and the teams of Evans and Foster and Bilotta and Brady won in doubles.

"We started well despite the fact that we had only had three days of practice before the first match," Cheses said. "We have some of our top singles players from last year still learning how to play on a doubles court.

"Stef has been a four-year varsity player and Sydney has been on varsity three years, so they give us a lot of experience. Leah got some good playing experience last year, and Ava Foster mostly played j.v. last year but got more varsity time by the end of the season."

The Lions begin MSL-Ohio play Aug. 27 at Whitehall.

Four starters back for Unicorns

Columbus School for Girls has four returning starters, and seventh-year coach Sean Delaney is looking to fill out the rest of the lineup.

Senior Sophia Vershinin (honorable mention all-league) returns at first singles and sophomore returnee Lanie Klatt is at second singles. Delaney is uncertain who will play third singles.

The Unicorns have half of both doubles teams set, with returnees Maya Garg and Becca Hoffman still needing partners. Garg is a senior and Hoffman is a sophomore, and both were second-team all-league last season.

"We might see more rotation in the lineup than we have in years past because we have a lot of good competition going on," said Delaney, whose team went 6-10 overall last fall and placed fifth (22, 3-4) in the MSL-Ohio. "We have about four or five on the bubble, and I like to give the kids a shot at varsity when I can."

Senior McKenna Merriman, junior Lane Sharfin, sophomore Annahita Riazi and freshman Elizabeth Burgess are candidates to fill the vacancies.

"It's been a weird year to coach with the COVID(-19 coronavirus pandemic), but we have a roster of 20 and the kids have a lot of passion and are competitive-natured," Delaney said. "They're happy to be playing and trying to do something normal after the spring and summer."

The Unicorns were to open Aug. 14 against North Canton Hoover, but the match was canceled because of bad weather. Their annual home doubles tournament slated for Aug. 15 was canceled because of the pandemic.

They are to begin MSL-Ohio competition Aug. 27 at Worthington Christian.

--Scott Hennen

Hawks feature veteran lineup

Since 2018, Lynn Winters has doubled as the women's tennis coach at Capital and the girls tennis coach at Hartley.

She's a little less busy at the moment after the Ohio Athletic Conference, in which Capital competes, announced it would not be having fall sports because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Now in her 23rd season as the Hawks' coach, Winters has been impressed with how her players have responded to the adversity of the past few months.

"They wear their mask, they're six feet apart and everybody's been really good about abiding by the guidelines," she said. "They're doing a really good job, taking direction really well with this and nobody ever forgot their mask. It's been really easy to kind of police, so I'm very thrilled about that. I didn't know how it would be for the kids, but they want to play. They're so excited to be with each other socially, you can see it in their eyes. It's such a joy for all of them to be a part of the team again after being indoors for so many months."

The Hawks, who finished 8-8 overall last season, opened Aug. 11 by beating Hamilton Township 5-0. They went 1-2 in the CCL last year and begin league action Sept. 8 at home against DeSales.

Seniors Gia Green and Morgan Liden and junior Emily Thompson are the top returnees.

Green spent most of last season at first singles and ended her season in the second round of the Division II sectional tournament at Academy.

Liden teamed with 2020 graduate Elyse Amorati to lose in a quarterfinal doubles match at sectional, while Thompson also lost in the second round in singles.

Seniors Joelea Kelley and Maria Kelley, who are cousins, are other returnees.

Others who should see playing time are seniors Ruhama Ababu, Agnes Bryan, Jackie Kirkland and Jessica McBride and junior Elayna Kebe.

"We have seven juniors and four incoming freshmen, and the four incoming freshmen are really nice players and are even," Winters said.

"They'll be playing our (junior varsity) matches right now and they keep improving, too. They look pretty promising.

"We're excited about our season. We've got a nice group of girls and are so glad that we can play this year."

--Jarrod Ulrey

sports@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSports

At a glance

BEXLEY

*Coach: Shelby Cheses, 14th season

*Top players: Leah Baumann, Sydney Elliott and Stefanie Lehman

*Key losses: Katie Benedict, Ilsa Evans, Maxine Giller, Ava Grossman and Ellie Levy

*Last season: 13-4 overall

*2019 MSL-Ohio standings: Columbus Academy (42, 7-0), Wellington (33, 6-1), Bexley (26, 5-2), Worthington Christian (24, 4-3), Columbus School for Girls (22, 3-4), Buckeye Valley (16, 2-5), Grandview (7, 1-6), Whitehall (0, 0-7)

COLUMBUS SCHOOL FOR GIRLS

*Coach: Sean Delaney, seventh season

*Top players: Maya Garg, Becca Hoffman, Lanie Klatt and Sophia Vershinin

*Key losses: Megan Hardy, Helen Hoag and Haley Tobias

*Last season: 6-10 overall

*2019 MSL-Ohio standings: Academy (42, 7-0), Wellington (33, 6-1), Bexley (26, 5-2), Worthington Christian (24, 4-3), CSG (22, 3-4), Buckeye Valley (16, 2-5), Grandview (7, 1-6), Whitehall (0, 0-7)

HARTLEY

*Coach: Lynn Winters, 23rd season

*Top players: Gia Green, Joelea Kelley, Maria Kelley, Morgan Liden and Emily Thompson

*Key losses: Elyse Amorati, Laurynn-Renee Caldwell, Leah Herbert and Lauren McFann

*Last season: 8-8 overall

*2019 CCL standings: Watterson (3-0), DeSales (2-1), Hartley (1-2), Ready (0-3)