By Josh Brown
MIAMI COUNTY — For the third year in a row, the Troy tennis team will have the same singles lineup.
That’s a good sign for the Trojans — those two previous years, they won the Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division.
And while the division looks different this season, with Tippecanoe replacing Trotwood in the newly-formed GWOC American North Division and a new way to decide the champions, an experienced Troy team is looking to remain atop the league.
Those three singles players that will help lead the Trojans’ efforts, all now seniors, are Hannah Essick, Maggie Hennessy and Ashley Bruns. Essick and Hennessy have been first and second singles, respectively, since they were freshmen, while Bruns has played third the past two seasons. Essick was Player of the Year in the North last season, while Hennessy and Bruns were both second team in the North.
“We have the same lineup as last year and the year before,” Troy coach Mark Goldner said. “Those are three seniors that have earned their spots. They’ve been through everything and seen everybody in the area. I’m hoping all three will just have great seniors years.”
Doubles is still a battle heading into the season, with four players still figuring out the order. Sophomores Katie Sherrick — who played second last season — and Hailey Taylor, who is stepping up from the JV team, are the early favorites to play first doubles, with juniors Jackie Fulker and Emma Kazmaier playing second doubles.
“Katie and Hailey have been playing together in the summer and in some tournament, and they may be ahead by a nose right now,” Goldner said. “It’s close still, but it will work itself out soon.
“The girls have been working hard. I’m pleased with their progress. Most of them came to the open courts, and we got a lot accomplished. Doubles will still take some time — only one of those girls has been through it all last year and one is moving up, but all four of them are going to be learning.”
Things will be both wildly different and oddly similar when it comes to division play this season. The GWOC is now split into four divisions, with Troy, Butler, Greenville, Piqua, Sidney and Tippecanoe making up the American North. Trotwood, which Tippecanoe replaced, Fairborn, Stebbins, West Carrollton and Xenia all make up the American South — and all of those matches will count toward the division standings.
“We’ve played most of these teams every year anyway. Most of them are in our sectional,” Goldner said. “I think Tippecanoe will be a strong addition to the league. They’re going to have a good team, and Butler and Greenville are both going to be good. Those will be some of the stronger teams in the North.
“We’re also playing Miamisburg and Springboro, who may be the two strongest teams in the area, as well as Centerville and Alter. We’re trying to give our girls some tough non-league competition to get them ready for the postseason.”
Tippecanoe left the Central Buckeye Conference a champion last year.
Now a veteran Red Devil team — one that boasts three district qualifiers from last season — wants to make a splash in the Greater Western Ohio Conference.
“Our team is certainly a veteran one this year — one that is motivated, tested and that wants to get back to the top of the conference after winning the CBC last year,” Tippecanoe coach Kaci Matthews, who is entering her third year with the team, said. “All of our girls have worked hard in the offseason and believe that they have something to prove moving into the GWOC this year.”
Kennedy Reeder is one of those district qualifiers and will return at first singles this year, while four-year player senior Ladia Coning will be at second singles. Juniors Jordan Jones or Sophia McDowell — who both went to district last year, as well — will play at third singles, while the other will team with senior Alyssa Stewart at first doubles. And at second doubles, senior Anna Kueterman and sophomore Claire Wint will round out the lineup.
“I’m excited to coach such an extremely motivated, talented and overall good group of girls who know that their first priority is to be a student and then an athlete,” Matthews said. “We hope to make the community of Tipp City proud, not just by how we do on the tennis court, but also how we present ourselves in the community and the classroom.”
The Milton-Union Bulldogs had a young team last season, still finishing second in the Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division but going 8-11 overall.
With a year and an offseason of improvement under their belts, though, the Bulldogs are ready to step it up this season.
Ashley Wombold, Abby Hissong and Rachel Rock all return and will play singles, while Hannah Fugate, Mercedes Farmer and Caitlin Bushelman all return and will play doubles, and will be joined by Laura Billings.
“The girls have been working hard to better themselves and the team all year long, putting many hours in on the court,” second-year coach Diana Finfrock said. “Our top goals are to have a winning season and end up back on top of the SWBL Buckeye Division.”
Tim Ungericht returns for his season season as coach.
The Lady Cavaliers finished 3-15 a year ago and lost Diana Gibson and Emma Simpson to graduation.
Returning letterwinners include senior Allison Briggs, juniors Melanie Bruner and Alex Read and sophomores Sarah Gibson and Ann Pennaparra.
“Our goals are to win more matches than last year and qualify girls for districts,” Ungericht said. “Sophomore Claire Larger is a transfer from Fort Loramie and will be at the top of our lineup after she is eligible in the second half of the season. We have 11 girls out this fall, the most in three seasons.”
John Brunner will join the program as an assistant coach.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.