Oak Hills has some momentum coming off last season. The Highlanders finished 8-7 overall – the first winning season since 2006, said second-year coach Jeremy Miller.
There are five returning players with experience, and four of them were starters a year ago. Oak Hills is young this year, with just two seniors in Zach Thomas and Josh Schoonover.
Miller said that Schoonover’s a “grinder that gets to every ball possible and never gives up,” and Thomas is primarily a double player who’s very good at the net.
Returning at the top of the singles rotation is junior Chase Pearson who played second singles last year. Miller said Pearson’s working his way back from a shoulder injury and he’s starting to feel his game coming back.
Miller also said the rotation will “mix around” a lot this year, but expect junior returning starter Nathan Hill in doubles this year. Junior Daniel Cirkovic‘s game is highlighted by a “massive” serve and a nice forehand, said Miller. Stepping up this year will be junior Jacob Graff in doubles and foreign exchange student Alvaro Farres, from Spain.
“Our guys are very similar in skill, so it’s nice to juggle around,” Miller said. “We’re still trying to find our strengths right now. It’s a fun team to be around, they’re hilarious and they work hard every day.”
The Highlanders’ schedule is a little tougher this year and they’re looking to become more patient especially in long rallies.
The goal is always same for the Elder High School tennis program – to improve. The Panthers are coming off a season in which they tied for second in the Greater Catholic League South with Moeller, behind St. Xavier. Elder will also have to find a way to replace Luke Groene, who graduated and is playing in college at Transylvania.
The Panthers do have four returning starters in seniors Drew Lovell and Nick Rolfes as well as juniors Bryce Wauligman and Antonio Dilonardo. Lovell played third singles last year and he’ll likely be the guy at first singles this year. Wauligman’s a three-year varsity starter who played first doubles last season (won 17 matches) and has moved into the second singles role. Rolfes is a two-year varsity player resuming his spot on first doubles, where Elder coach Glenn Wauligman says he’ll be solid. Dilonardo was a second doubles player last year where he had 18 wins; this year he’s filling the third singles spot.
“It’s definitely challenging, we have a lot of doubles players moving up into singles positions,” Glenn Wauligman said. “(Drew) has some big shoes to fill in terms of the guys we play, that first singles spot is tough.”
Elder had a solid start to the season winning the Best of the West tournament on March 28, defeating Colerain in the finals. The other teams competing were Fairfield, Oak Hills and La Salle.
Elder should have a dependable doubles department this season.
“We’re really good at doubles; they’re good, strong players (in first and second doubles),” Wauligman said. “With our doubles being strong, we just need a win out of singles and we’ll do real good.”
Stepping up in doubles this year are seniors Nick Meade and Alex Hoffman as well as junior Joe Meade.
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
Elder senior Drew Lovell: A tall, experienced singles player for the Panthers who was second team All-GCL last season.
Oak Hills junior Chase Pearson: Played second singles as a sophomore, moving into first singles this year.
Elder junior Bryce Wauligman: An experienced doubles player who won 17 matches last season, now ventures into singles with an all-around game.
St. Xavier junior Andrew Niehaus: Was the GCL South Player of the Year last season and a singles state qualifier.