By Josh Brown
MIAMI COUNTY — A total of 54 wins and two division titles.
Over the past four seasons, the Troy tennis team has known exactly what to expect going in.
But after the graduation of all three singles players — with a combined 11 years of varsity experience between them — this year the Trojans will, despite having a number of veteran faces on the team, will have an entirely new lineup as they begin the road back to the top of the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division.
“Hannah (Essick) and Maggie (Hennessy) were first and second singles all four years, and Ashley Bruns was third singles for the last three years,” Troy tennis coach Mark Goldner said. “It’s just going to be a different year for us this year. We’ll have all new people playing singles, a couple people that played second doubles could move up to first — it’s just going to be a big change for the program.”
But it’s not something entirely new to Goldner.
“I’ve been through it with the boys, yeah,” said Goldner, who is also Troy’s long-time boys tennis coach. “We’ve got 12 girls out this year, which is nice. It’s just kind of a rebuilding process.”
And the Trojans have building blocks to start with.
Returning to the team are all four doubles players from last season: seniors Emma Kazmaier and Jackie Fulker, who played second doubles, and the first doubles team of juniors Katie Sherrick and Hailey Taylor. And a fifth returner is sophomore Mackenzie Nosker, who mostly played junior varsity but did play in a couple of varsity matches last season.
“Three of those girls will play singles, and the other two will play doubles — but we haven’t decided which yet,” Goldner said. “We lost all three singles players from last year, so all of the girls will be in all new positions this year. There isn’t going to be one person in the same position.”
Troy also has a host of young players competing to fill the rest of the spots.
“Sophomore Kit Wolke played some JV last year. She’s definitely in the mix for second doubles,” Goldner said. “And we’ve got a couple of freshmen, Cady Rhea and Kylie Ayers, who we’re looking at for a spot on doubles, and we have three other freshmen and a sophomore out that we’re going to bring on in the JV season.
“When you’re around as long as I’ve been around, you’re going to go through this. I look at it as a challenge. We’re going to get better as the year goes along. We’re going to take some lumps, sure, but the girls are going to play hard, they’re going to get better and I think we’re going to have a successful season.”
The Trojans entered last season with back-to-back division championships but ended up finishing second with a 9-1 record behind 10-0 Butler. And this season, the GWOC American North looks just as tough.
“Greenville is probably the favorite, as they have 5 or 6 players coming back,” Goldner said. “Butler has two or three of their singles players back, too, and Tippecanoe is going to be much improved. Those will probably be the top three teams in the North.
“Really, our goal is to look from the start of the season to the end and see if we got better. I just want to see improvement in the team as we go along. And if we can squeak someone in at districts, that would be great.”
Tippecanoe graduated Kennedy Reeder, a three-year first singles player, and the district-qualifying first doubles team of Ladia Coning and Alyssa Stewart, but the Red Devils expect to contend in the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division this season.
Three varsity players from last season return in Jordan Jones, Sophia McDowell and Claire Wint, and a group of incoming freshmen will help add depth to the roster.
“Overall, we have a lot of new faces on the court this year. After graduating seven seniors, four that played on varsity, many people would say that this is going to be a tough year for Tippecanoe,” fourth-year Tippecanoe tennis coach Kaci Matthews said. “But we still have high expectations for the team.
“We have a strong incoming freshman class and three returning varsity players who want to step up, rise to the challenge and take over a strong program left behind by great seniors. We have a lot of opportunity for our young ones and our veterans to make an impact on our varsity lineup this season.”
Third-year Milton-Union tennis coach Diana Finfrock watched her team narrowly miss winning a Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division title last season, finishing 5-1 behind 6-0 Preble Shawnee. This year’s team, though, is Finfrock’s strongest team yet, according to her.
Abby Hissong, Laura Billing, Meredith Fitch and Hannah Fugate all return to the lineup this season, but the Bulldogs have yet to nail down a lineup heading into the season.
“This is the strongest team I’ve had the pleasure of coaching in my three years as the head coach,” she said. “It has been a pleasure to watch the girls improve and grow as tennis players. Every one of these girls has worked extremely hard in the offseason, logging many hours on the court. One of our top goals is to win the league, as well as advance players to the district tournament.”
The Lehman tennis team has a veteran lineup this season and the numbers to fill in the gaps, giving Tim Ungericht his strongest lineup in his three years as coach.
Juniors Claire Larger and Sarah Gibson both return at singles, while junior Ann Pennaparra and sophomore Angela Brunner will be back at doubles, leading a roster that is 13 strong.
“We have 13 girls out for tennis this year,” Ungericht said. “It’s the largest, most experienced girls team I have coached. We have the potential to be very good.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.