Whitehall-Yearling Roundup: Girls tennis team preparing for season

FRANK DIRENNA
fdirenna@thisweeknews.com
Whitehall junior Jordan Burchnell (left) and sophomore Danny Arriola run laps around the track during soccer practice Aug. 7 at Whitehall. The soccer team was hoping to open the season Friday, Aug. 21, at home against Hilliard Davidson, but was awaiting word from the school district and Gov. Mike DeWine entering the week.

Whitehall-Yearling girls tennis coach Anthony Paletta enters his third season hoping his team can continue its development.

After finishing 0-13 in Paletta's first season, the Rams went 2-11 last fall and showed improvement throughout the season, according to their coach.

Amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Whitehall's preseason training has been limited.

"We've been out there for a few weeks," Paletta said. "I wanted to make sure I knew what was going on and felt comfortable with what's going on with COVID. Tennis is a great sport to socially distance. It's been pretty easy with tennis compared to some other sports.

"Having sports is a great way to keep kids motivated in school and keep them active."

The Rams are scheduled to open Aug. 27 at Bexley in an MSL-Ohio Division match, but Paletta said last week that he was awaiting approval from the school district to begin the season.

"Right now we're just practicing, which is fine with me because a lot of our girls are beginners and learning the sport, so it's allowing us some time to perfect our game and get some experience under our belt," said Paletta, who also coaches the boys team in the spring.

The top returnees are senior Anna von Dolln and juniors Leslie Gonzalez and Shaye Parsley. They have been competing for the first-singles spot.

"I'm really hoping that we get some matches in this season to get them a season," Paletta said.

Also back are junior Paris Bedell and sophomore Alicia Pulido.

Other players are juniors Aayona Austin, Angela Pulido and Maria Torres-Alaniz, sophomore Amajah Hill and freshmen Princess Ayoh, Braelyn Crouch-Swords and Allison Hall.

"I've been trying to build the girls team up," Paletta said. "We're really trying to hone in on this sport at the school with good girls. From when I took it over two years ago to now, we're getting more and more kids."

Paletta said the program has added a paid assistant coach in Sheryl Johnson.

The Rams are looking to replace 2020 graduate Cali Justice, who was named the team's MVP last season.

Coaches await updated guidance

As of Aug. 15, Whitehall coaches were awaiting guidance from the school district and Gov. Mike DeWine on when their teams could begin competing.

DeWine was expected to discuss high school athletics at a press conference Aug. 18.

The football team was hoping to compete in a scrimmage in preparation of its scheduled season and MSL-Ohio opener Aug. 28 against visiting Columbus Academy.

"Obviously, there's tremendous challenges for us this year (because) we're in Phase 1 (of the workout protocols)," coach Rod Lightfoot said. "The key is keeping our kids focused on the task at hand and trying to get better each day. That's what we're doing."

The boys soccer team, which also has been unable to compete in scrimmages, hopes to begin its season Friday, Aug. 21, at home against Hilliard Davidson.

"We're still in Phase 1, but we're hoping for some clarity on the opening day for the season," coach Geral Leka said. "We're planning as if we'll have a game (Aug. 21). You have to prepare as if there is a game and then if we get clearance from the governor and also just as important from our district because that's how I foresee the structure of this.

"If there is going to be a potential season, it's going to be at the discretion of each district, and the local leaderships throughout Ohio are going to have to make their own decisions."

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank

At a glance

GIRLS TENNIS

*Coach: Anthony Paletta, third season

*Top players: Anna von Dolln, Leslie Gonzalez and Shaye Parsley

*Key losses: Cali Justice, Kamdon Pauley and Izzy Simmons

*Last season: 2-11 overall

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