Colerain High School finished third in the regular season last year in the Greater Miami Conference and took fourth in the GMC tournament. The Cardinals have six returning starters from last year, and coach Steve Tapogna and his team are optimistic they can be competitive again.
“The kids have carried over the enthusiasm from last year; they think they can have a really good year,” Tapogna said. “They want to build off last year’s success, duplicate that and/or improve on that this season.”
All Tapogna’s singles players are returning starters. At first singles is sophomore Matthew Laskey, who Tapogna said has worked hard to improve, adding that he’s got a great first serve, solid ground strokes and he’s gotten better at the net. At second singles is senior captain Doug Friedhoff, a four-year varsity starter for the Cardinals. Another senior captain, Henry Wessels, plays third singles and is also a four-year varsity starter. Tapogna added that the singles rotation is interchangeable, they can all move around as needed.
At first doubles, 6-foot-4 senior Steven Koenig and senior Ben Taphorn both return. Tapogna said they played together at second doubles last season, and they’ve both progressed in the right direction. At second doubles, Tapogna has three guys who can help out in senior Alec Wickham, senior Marcus Sprenger and senior Tyler Marshall.
Marshall and Sprenger both played junior varsity last season, and because they’re close in terms of talent, Tapogna may rotate them every match depending on who has the hot hand.
Junior Josiah Archer and sophomore Nathan Lorenz will also likely get some varsity matches this season, Tapogna said he wants them to get some experience.
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.
After graduating seven seniors, including all-Southwest Ohio Conference performers Tim Jergens, Jeyland Kitchen, Trendal Miller and Ricky Platt, Northwest has its work cut out for it this season.
Head coach Lauri Beyer said she doesn’t know what this season will hold. The Knights have a couple players who are new to the game and a couple more who played on the junior varsity level last season.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Beyer said.
Northwest’s lone returning player with varsity experience is junior Justin Carter. He played doubles last season and is making the jump to No. 1 singles this year. Because of the inexperience of the roster, he is the only viable option for the spot.
Making the jump from doubles to being the No. 1 singles player isn’t the norm, but playing doubles has helped him with his game.
“He has some adjustments to make,” the coach said. “But, he has improved especially with his play at the net.”
Carter was an all-conference performer last season.
Senior Michael Smith returns for a another year to fill the No. 2 singles role. His first season was last year.
At No. 3 singles is freshman David Cao.
“He’s done some good things for us so far,” Beyer said.
The Knights are breaking in players such as new junior Sean Johnson on their doubles teams.
Colerain defeated Northwest 5-0 March 31. The Knights returned to the court against Taylor April 6 and will host Madeira April 8.
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.”
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.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Colerain seniors Henry Wessels and Doug Friedhoff: Four-year varsity starters and captains for the Cardinals.
La Salle senior Eric Blessing: Already at first singles in only his second year playing tennis.
Northwest’s Justin Carter: Is the Knights’ only returning player from the varsity team last year, made the jump from first doubles to No. 1 singles.
Colerain sophomore Matthew Laskey: Great all-around player already in the first singles spot.