By Josh Brown
MIAMI COUNTY — Eight years. Two players.
The Troy tennis team has enjoyed good fortune and longevity with its first singles position.
But after the four-year tenures of both Raja Gupta and state qualifier Luke Oaks, the Trojans will look to another young player to step into the role this season — and a number of other young players in other roles, as well — as they look to dethrone perennial Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division champion Butler.
That begins at first singles with sophomore Shane Essick.
Essick got experience playing second singles behind Oaks last year, qualifying for the district tournament as a freshman. And that year of experience could help give him a leg up as he takes the top spot this season.
“Obviously, he’s moving up from No. 2. It was good experience for him last year being a No. 2. This is a good opportunity for him to step forward,” Troy coach Mark Goldner said. “It’s going to be a little different for him, though. He’s going to catch everyone else’s best player, face a lot of really good players. I expect him to do well this year and for it to be a good experience for him.”
Another experienced player in senior Matt Schmitt and another sophomore in Elijah Sadler, who qualified for the district tournament as a first doubles player last season, will vie for spots at both second and third singles.
“Matt’s going to be another four-year letter winner, and Elijah is stepping up from first doubles,” Goldner said. “It’s been a change for him going from doubles to singles, and Matt has played second or third all four years. They’ve both played each other, and right now it’s pretty even. We’ll give it some time, and it’ll work itself out over time.”
At doubles, the team of Andrew Magoteaux and Nick Prus will move up from second to first this season. Prus is a junior and Magoteaux a sophomore — but they also have the potential to move into the singles ranks if needed, as well.
“They were our second doubles team last year, and they played well there,” Goldner said. “Andrew could still be in the mix at singles if someone needs a break or a day off. Nick, too. Both played well at second doubles last year, and both have improved, so they’re ready to step up.”
At second doubles, senior Carter Hench and junior Jack Johnston — both of which got varsity experience two years ago — will return to round out the lineup.
“Jack lettered as a freshman, played mostly JV last year,” Goldner said. “Carter lettered as a sophomore and played mostly JV last year, too. Both of them are ready to step back in. They’ve both been working hard, and after last year’s experience, they’re ready to go.”
The Trojans also have a pair of players in reserve to work in should the need arise in sophomore Anoop Patel and senior Alex Gigandet.
“That’s kind of where we are,” Goldner said. “We’ve had a great two weeks, only missed one day of practice. The weather has held up well for us. We’re a little ahead of where we normally are right now. We’ve been outdoors quite a bit, had some good practices, and we’ve still got another week to go.
“I really like the attitude of the players so far. They’ve put their nose to the grindstone. They’re working hard and listening and getting along really well. We just need to keep working hard and getting better fundamentally.”
And with the combination of youth, talent and experience they have this season, the Trojans will take aim at knocking Butler off its GWOC North pedestal.
“Vandalia (Butler) lost a few people, but they’ll still be decent, and Greenville will be good,” Goldner said. “We’ll definitely be geared up for those two matches.
“Centerville, Springboro, Beavercreek — we’ve got a lot of good teams on our schedule. We want to play a good out-of-division schedule so we know we’re good when we play teams in the North.”
The Tippecanoe Red Devils graduated a number of talented players but bring back four this season. The trick for them will be finding the right places for them.
Phillip Bullard and Eric Staley will be two linchpins of the team at singles, leaving Tippecanoe to try to find the right mixes elsewhere — particularly at doubles.
“We have four returning varsity players from last year,” Tippecanoe coach Kaci Finfrock said. “We are going to find the right combinations and positions for our boys this season. Our goal for the season is to gain experience, gain knowledge of the game and do so while using our athleticism to win matches.”
Milton-Union may have graduated a lot of state experience in the offseason in Matt Brumbaugh, but they still bring back some — and plenty of other talented veteran players.
Philip Brumbaugh will take over the first singles position after qualifying for state as a doubles team with older brother Matt Brumbaugh last year. Luke Ferguson and Logan Dickison — who also were district qualifier last year could either play doubles again or split up to play singles. And Nick Brumbaugh, Philip’s younger brother, should see time at doubles this year, with the other two varsity positions still to be decided.
“We are hoping to continue our success that we have previously had while getting needed experience to our younger players that we have out this year,” Milton-Union coach Roger Davidson said. “We are preparing to defend our Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division championship, along with playing a full JV schedule to get our younger players as many matches as possible.”
Dave Williams returns as Piqua boys tennis coach, having coached the team from 1985-2012, to take over a team that finished 5-12 overall last year and 1-4 in the GWOC North.
Graduating off that team were Luke Hanes, Andrew Lamphar and Joling Hsiang.
Returning letterwinners include seniors Tyler Lavey, Josh Hanes, Brendan Tisher and Emily Williams and junior JJ Rohrbach.
“I expect to be competitive in our matches and would like to qualify someone for district play,” Williams said.
Tim Ungericht takes over as Lehman coach.
Graduating were district qualifiers Sam Dean, Josh West, Dylan Sherman and Nick Earhart; along with Thomas Covault.
The lone returning letterwinner is sophomore Griffin West, who will play singles along with sophomore Ryan Goettemoeller and junior Will Hoersten, with senior Malachi Bezy and sophomore Sam Ritze leading the doubles teams.
“We are young but talented,” Ungericht said. “We expect to have a winning season. Our goals are to finish with a top 10 ranking in Division II in the Miami Valley and we want to continue our tradition of district qualifiers.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.