Wilson Memorial’s girls’ tennis team didn’t lose a match last year until the Group 2A state championship final.
So, it’s not surprising that the Green Hornets are the heavy favorites to repeat as Conference 36 champs and continue a tradition that has shown a program that has reached the state finals three of the last six years.
With four returners to the ladder and several other players who were just off forming this year’s nucleus, things are looking up for the Green Hornets.
“Wilson will win and probably go to and possibly win states,” Buffalo Gap coach Steve Anson said.
Meanwhile, the Bison will field a team with a lot of inexperience, with four players returning from last year’s squad leading the way.
Robert E. Lee, despite losing its No. 1 player, has a lot of experience back and is eying improving its win-loss record.
Riverheads is also aiming for improvement with nine returning players. However, the Gladiators lost half of their ladder to graduation.
After two years as assistant coach, Anson moves up to the head spot for the Bison. He knows the district well, having led the Riverheads Gladiators for 10 years prior to moving to the Gap.
This year’s team has eight players, including four who were on the squad last year returning to the ladder.
“We want to show improvement throughout the year and be competitive,” Anson said. “We have lots of inexperience, and lost our No. 2 girl.”
Leading the Bison is Reagan Coon who returns at No. 1.
“She is a four-year experienced senior,” Anson said. “She has a very strong all-around game and should have a very good year.”
Moving up a spot to No. 2 is junior Taylor McNeal, who has three years of varsity experience.
“She has some very powerful ground strokes and has shown a lot of improvement,” the Gap coach said.
Junior Brenna Kent advances to No. 3. The junior has been on the team for three seasons.
“She is on her way to becoming a solid player,” Anson said.
Renae Coon probably will be at No. 4. The sophomore moves up a spot from last year and has a good baseline game.
Four new players will vie for the final two spots. In that group are sophomores Jennifer Anderson, Anatasia Chittum and Madison Kauffman along with freshman Maddie Rothwell.
“They are all brand new to the game,” Anson said.
“We are very glad to at least have more than six players this year unlike the past two years when we had only six,” the Gap coach said. “They are all enthusiastic and eager to learn the game. I hope they develop quickly, because we will need them for the future and two of them will be needed to fill out our top six.”
Robert E. Lee
Ginny Hocker, who begins her second year as head coach of the Lee Ladies, is optimistic about this campaign, which will rely on senior leadership.
“Last year we had a relatively successful season, finishing third overall as a team in the district,” she said. “And I would like for us as a team to challenge ourselves to finish ever stronger this year.”
All told, Lee has 12 players on the roster, including six seniors, two juniors and four freshmen. Of the 12, eight are returning players
“I’m confident we will have a successful season,” Hocker said. “We have a lot of strong relationships and belief in one another that will help us reach our goals.”
Lee graduated its No. 1 player, but the remainder of the ladder is back, with challenges determining where they stand.
In that group are senior Maddie Sliwoski, junior Darby Lucius-Milliman, and seniors Hannah Flavin, Chelsea Church and Addison Willet.
“I have to fill my No. 1 spot and reassess the rest of the ladder through challenge matches,” Hocker said.
Also returning are seniors Mari-Peyton Kouchinsky and Evelyn Marshall along with junior Emma Diduch. Freshmen new to the team include Allyssa Bostic, Heaven Crawford, Hallie Lawson and Jennifer Williams.
“I am looking to my seniors to lead this year and teach the younger athletes all that they know,” Hocker said. “I will miss every single one of my seniors when they graduate.
“They have really made this experience great. They are some of the most respectful ladies I have had the pleasure to work with and I will miss them more than they will ever know,” she said.
The Gladiators are coming off a 6-10 season and are aiming to improve that record.
“Our goal is to win each match and build on the skills the girls currently have,” third-year coach Reuben Siskin said.
“We have many young and new players, and look to build the Riverheads team to become more competitive as these girls gain more experience,” Siskin said.
All told, Riverheads has 14 players on this year’s squad, of which nine are returners. There are five seniors, five juniors, one sophomore and three freshmen.
The seniors include Lauren Ernst, Kaitlyn Painter, Kaiti Sheaves and Kayla Shrader.
Juniors on the team are Kaitlyn Bahrs, Abby Cassell, Emniy Gardner, Olivia Harris and Allison Miller.
The lone sophomore is Grace Staton. Freshmen newcomers are Lily Hayes and Allison Koogler.
“I expect that we should be competitive in our conference this year,” Siskin said.
Fourth-year coach Chad Reed saw his team start the 2015 season Monday with a 9-0 win over Page County, and followed up Tuesday with a 9-0 sweep of Waynesboro.
That just might be the first steps which may take the Green Hornets to the state tournament again.
With seven returners to a team of 11, the ingredients are there for another successful season.
“It’s an honor to be at Wilson,” Reed said. “It’s a rich tradition. We want the players to think they are a part of a thing bigger than this year.
“This, however, is a new team and we are trying to see where the parts fit in, and it’s a brand new season,” Reed said
Leading the way is junior Landon Aud, who moves up a spot to No. 1.
“She’s a solid, all-around player and plays a lot year-round,” Reed said.
At No.2 is senior Cassie Stark, who jumps two spots from No. 4.
“She’s one of our toughest players,” the Wilson coach said. “She’s like a bulldog. She won’t let go.”
Senior Sarah Boward jumps from No. 5 to No. 3. She is a naturally gifted player with a volleyball background. In doubles, she plays with Stark, the squad’s one returning doubles team.
After the top three spots, there’s a lot of parity with the next four players who are all returners.
Anna Miller was at No. 6 last year and has moved to No. 4, while sophomore Emily Aleshevich, who was just off the ladder, is at No. 5. Holding down the sixth spot in Wilson’s first match was Courtney Phillips, while junior Sophie Shealy played No. 3 doubles.
“All four are similar in ability,” Reed said. “All play year-round. They will fight it out. That will give us the depth we are accustomed to.”
Rounding out the team are sophmores Kennedy Eakin and Taylor Shafer, and freshmen Jenna Benzing and Caitlin Phillips.