By Josh Brown
TROY — A new-look lineup compared to last season. A fairly young team. And, after Wednesday, a team coming off of its first loss.
Even so, the Troy tennis team has plenty going for it at this point in the season — and potentially even more moving forward.
Troy (7-1, 2-0 Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division) bounced back from its loss on Wednesday to Centerville, arguably the top team in the Dayton area, by taking on a GWOC North contender, Trotwood, Thursday, winning all five matches in impressive fashion 5-0 at Troy High School.
Trotwood (4-3, 1-1 GWOC North) entered the match as one of only two other teams without a loss in division play, and one of only two other teams in the division with an above-.500 overall record. Troy now has defeated both teams in the latter category — Trotwood and Greenville — and faces one main hurdle on the way to a division title — Butler.
“Next Tuesday is the Butler match. That’s what it’s going to come down to,” Troy coach Mark Goldner said. Butler, which now sits at 3-4 and 1-1, pending the results of Thursday’s match against Greenville, has won the North for the past 10 seasons.
And while this year’s Trojan lineup sees a pair of sophomores at first and second singles, and another sophomore and a junior at first doubles, all of those players got experience during last year’s GWOC North runner-up finish — and have shown they are ready to step up into more prominent roles.
Mainly because they all know the goal — and what it will take to accomplish it.
“The thing is, this team has really gotten along,” Goldner said. “They cheer for each other and push each other. We have great team chemistry, and all the kids are willing to listen and learn. You can really see all of the young players getting better each day.”
The stepping up begins with Shane Essick at first singles.
Essick is only the third player to occupy the position in the last nine years, as both Raja Gupta and Luke Oaks held the spot from their freshman to seniors years. After Oaks’ graduation, though, the sophomore Essick has stepped into the role and played well — even defeating Centerville’s Josh Giambattista in straight sets Wednesday.
Thursday against Trotwood, he got the ball rolling by cruising past senior Emir Moore 6-1, 6-1.
“We knew things would be tough for Shane this year,” Goldner said. “He’ll be seeing everyone’s best player this year. He played a lot of good No. 2s last year at second, but first is just different. Last night’s win was a great win for him, though. That Centerville kid was a kid that took Luke three sets last year.”
Elijah Sadler has also made a move, from first doubles last season to second singles this year. Sadler, another sophomore, faced an athletic player in junior Kobe Vinegar, keeping his composure throughout and defeating him 6-3, 6-1.
And the only player to occupy the same spot he did as last season is senior Matt Schmitt at third singles, who steadily pulled away from Trotwood’s Tre Battle 6-2, 6-2.
“Elijah is still learning,” Goldner said. “Going from doubles to singles is a big change, but he’s getting better. And Matt? Well, Matt’s Matt. He’s a very steady player.”
Junior Nick Prus and sophomore Andrew Magoteaux, who played second doubles last season, moved up to first doubles this season and have seen a number of solid teams already. Thursday, the duo easily handled Trotwood’s Luke and Titus Hogan 6-1, 6-1.
And at second doubles, senior Carter Hench and junior Jack Johnston had the easiest time on the day, putting the first notch on the scoreboard with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Anthony Parker and Jay Nelloms.
“For Nick and Andrew, it’s definitely a step up,” Goldner said. “They’ve done well, but yesterday against Centerville they saw what experienced first doubles players can do. Hopefully by the end of the year, they can do that, too. And it’s kind of the same at second doubles. There’s still a lot of things we can work on and get better at.”
And for Goldner, even that is something the team has working in its favor.
“To me, that’s what’s encouraging — we haven’t hit our peak yet,” he said.
Troy faces Chaminade Julienne in a makeup match Saturday and host Lebanon Monday before its showdown against Butler Tuesday.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.