St. Xavier High School has endured a long, and seemingly endless reign at the top of the tennis world in the Greater Catholic League South. The Bombers have won the conference every year since 1967 and this year doesn’t look any different.
With four returning starters, the Bombers look formidable again. Junior Andrew Niehaus resumes his spot at first singles. Last season, Niehaus was the GCL South Player of the Year and a Division I state singles qualifier. Sophomore Peter Schulteis is another returning singles starter along with junior Waqas Tanveer.
Senior Connor Aronoff and junior Neil Bostick return as starters, both were first team All-GCL South last season. Also back are seniors Nate Johns and J.P. Bosse with sophomore Cameron Geoppinger – those three will rotate depending on how they’re playing, said coach Russ King, now in his 31st season with the Bombers.
“I like how young (the team) is, and we have a number of good, young kids coming in next year,” said King. “They’re coachable and they listen; I’m looking forward to seeing how they mature.”
The Bombers will have their work cut out for them this season.
“Our schedule this year is horrendous, we’re playing all the top teams in the state,” King said.
King would also like to see his young team grow and hit the weight room.
“They’re all young and they’re not real big guys; normally we have bigger guys,” said King. “The goal this year is to get them bigger, and they swear they’re gonna do it but saying it is one thing and doing it is another.”
There’s only six boys on the team this year at Winton Woods, but the Warriors are a close group that could beat some teams this year.
Four of the six guys are returning starters for coach Charles Chapman, now in his fourth season at Winton Woods.
At first singles is senior Micaiah Dawson. He’s started at first singles on varsity for the last four years and he was named captain as a junior and senior. Chapman said he’s really matured on and off the court and they’re expecting another solid season from him.
At second singles is senior Jordan Randolf, he and Dawson are best friends and came into the program together. Chapman said that Randolf, who also runs cross country, has always been willing to do what’s asked of him and he understands this is likely his last “hoorah” in organized tennis.
There’s a competition between senior twins Justin and Joshua Kerbo for the third singles spot. It’s just their second season playing tennis, Chapman said.
The doubles team consists of senior Alex Kuhn and sophomore Isaac Boateng. Chapman explained that it’s the first year playing for Kuhn and Boateng, but he’s been impressed with how they’ve taken to the sport.
“I like the closeness of the players. They work hard in practice and they’re real coachable,” Chapman said. “We just have to wait and see how things turn out. In terms of experience we’re kind of young, but hopefully we can come out, compete and have fun.”
Finneytown coach Charlie Knee has eight returning starters this season. The Wildcats don’t have a junior varsity team, so Knee has 16 guys on his varsity roster all working for time.
“They feel like nobody’s gonna beat them,” said Knee. “They do fairly well with (tough teams). They’re a good team and I really think we’re gonna do very well.”
Returning at second singles is junior Evan Keith. At third singles will be junior Austin Mills who started as a doubles player. At first singles is freshman Joel Steimle, who’s older brother, Brad, played first singles and graduated last spring. Knee said Steimle “walked on the court and that was it. He was that good.”
Juniors Jacob Gordon and Sam Rice will play first doubles and sophomore Jesse Cobbs will play second doubles. The other guys with experience who could help out are Brayden Sullivan, Eric Yoo (a foreign exchange student from Korea) and freshman Max Giffin.
Knee said they lost Aaron Palmer to an injury that required surgery, but “we’re keeping him on the team because he’s a leader and was chosen as a captain.”
After not fielding a team in either 2013 or 2014, Mount Healthy is set to begin the 2015 season April 8 against Talawanda. The Braves have been the runner-up to Wilmington in the SWOC each of the past two seasons.
The Owls host Northwest April 16.
La Salle will field an experienced bunch this season on the hard court. The Lancers have five returning starters led by coach Mike Holman, who’s in his 15th season with the Lancers.
Senior Eric Blessing will be in the first singles spot. Holman said last year was Blessing’s first year playing and he picked it up pretty quickly, moving up to first singles last year. Senior Eric Ruhe will play second singles and playing doubles last season. Holman said he could help out in doubles as needed. Sophomore David Orth will fill third singles but could also be used in doubles. Orth was a singles player on junior varsity last season, Holman said.
The other returning starters are seniors Nathan Barry and Matt Bumpus, both doubles players. Bumpus is a three-year varsity player and Barry’s a two-year guy.
Holman said this will be a good year to have experience because most of the younger, newer guys in the program have hardly any experience.
“The good thing is with the experience you don’t necessarily have to teach them what it means to win,” Holman said. “They have that understanding of what a tough match looks like and how to persevere in those situations; that’s where I think the experience will help the most.”
Also helping out in the doubles department this season will be senior John Muth, and juniors Jeff Bogenschutz and Jake Lawson.
“When you bring in a couple newer guys, (the seniors) are gonna kind of show them how things are done in a practice regimen and in competition,” Holman said.
The Lancers started the season with a 3-2 win over CHCA, then lost to Talawanda on March 31.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
St. Xavier junior Andrew Niehaus: Was the GCL South Player of the Year last season and a singles state qualifier.
Winton Woods senior Micaiah Dawson: Has played first singles on varsity all four years in high school.
Finneytown freshman Joel Steimle: Already in the first singles spot, has been impressive early in the season, his coach said.
St. Xavier senior Connor Aronoff: First team All-GCL South last season.
La Salle senior Eric Blessing: Already at first singles in only his second year playing tennis.