By Josh Brown
and Rob Kiser
TROY — After breaking a more-than-decade-long drought last year, how will the Troy tennis team follow up its first division championship since 2003?
By trying to win another one, naturally.
And while the Greater Western Ohio Conference has a new look this spring, with Troy now competing in the American League North Division, the aim is still the same for the Trojans — win the league title and make a strong postseason run.
“We always have the goal to win the GWOC North Division,” Troy tennis coach Mark Goldner said. “We also want to get a number of guys out of the sectional and to the district tournament, and hopefully someone can get hot there and get to state.”
Last year, Troy finished the season 17-2 and went 5-0 in division play to claim the title, only losing one match in division play along with four 5-0 sweeps. This season, though, Trotwood leaves for the American South Division, with Tippecanoe joining the North from the Central Buckeye Conference.
It’s something Goldner — who also coached the girls tennis team in the fall when the change first took place — is already familiar with.
“To be honest, we knew it was coming,” Goldner said. “We play Tipp and Fairborn and Stebbins regularly, so we know what to expect. But the South games count for our division, too. So I’ve tried to point out to the kids that we can’t take it easy. Those South coaches are the ones that are going to be voting for you if you want postseason awards. We’ve got to go out and take care of business every day.”
Troy has an advantage there, though — a host of returners that know just how to do that.
Junior Shane Essick returns for his second season at first singles. After qualifying for district as a freshman, he won a sectional title last season and was one match away from a trip to state.
“I think he had a good winter. He played a lot of good players from the Dayton and Cincinnati areas,” Goldner said. “That should help him. Right off the bat he’ll be playing two of the best players in the area, from Centerville and from Fairmont. He’s going to get plenty of good competition along the way, too.”
Another pair of returning juniors, Elijah Sadler and Andrew Magoteaux, will be battling over second and third singles. Sadler played second last season, while Magoteaux played first doubles and won a sectional title with teammates Nick Prus.
Prus, a returning senior, will be back at first doubles again, but his partner has yet to be decided. It could be senior Jack Johnston, who played second doubles last year, or junior Anoop Patel, who also saw action last season.
“They all played last year,” Goldner said. “Elijah and Andrew are both better this year and hit the ball a lot harder. Now learning how to win those key points will be the challenge for them. Nick and Jack are both going to be doubles players again, and that experience is invaluable. Other people just don’t understand how important it is. That experience at doubles means a lot, because they’ve been through it already and I don’t have to teach as much.”
Three freshmen — Nathan Kleptz, Jack Goodall and Sean Dippold — and junior Austin Glover will also be competing for playing time.
“We’re nine or 10 deep this season,” Goldner said. “We’re still kind of trying to figure the lineup out. It makes it nice, though. With guys battling for spots, they know they’ve got to perform in practice every day.”
They’ll have to perform on the court, too, to defend their division title.
“I think Greenville’s going to be pretty good this year,” Goldner said. “Butler lost their first and second singles, but Greenville has its one and two back. We’ll have to be on our toes, but I think it’ll be between us and Greenville.”
And come postseason time, Troy will be looking to defend the singles and doubles sectional titles, too — and maybe send someone to state.
“We’re going to see Centerville and Fairmont right away, and then Springboro and Beavercreek later in the season, and they have good teams, too,” Goldner said. “We’re going to see plenty of good competition along the way to get us ready. But once we get to district, it’s always tough. There are a lot of strong teams down in the Cincinnati area.”
TIPP CITY — Last season, the Red Devils had a lack of experience entering their final year in the Central Buckeye Conference.
This season, as she enters her third season as Tippecanoe’s tennis coach, Kaci Finfrock will have the challenge of fielding an even younger and unproven team as the Devils join the Greater Western Ohio Conference as a member of the American North Division.
“We have a very young team,” Finfrock said. “We’ll be experimenting with the lineup until we find a fit for our team and a way to be successful as a team.”
WEST MILTON — Milton-Union may have graduated a number of players in the offseason, but the Bulldogs still have the returning talent and strong newcomers to be a force in the Southwestern Buckeye League.
Leading the returners is senior Philip Brumbaugh, who — after qualifying for state as a sophomore in doubles — will be aiming to return this year. He will play first singles, while incoming freshman Nathan Brumbaugh will play second singles. Lastly, Nick Brumbaugh is the lone returning doubles player after the Bulldogs graduated the other three.
“We are expecting to have a strong showing in the league again this year,” Milton-Union coach Roger Davidson said. “We are also looking to make a strong showing in the sectional tournament this season. Philip has been working hard this offseason to make a run at going to state this year.”
Dave Williams returns as Piqua boys tennis coach.
Piqua’s longtime coach came back from retirement a year ago.
Returning letterwinners are Sean Hatke and Bradley McPherson.
“Our main goal is to be competitive in all matches, especially in the league,” Williams said. “Also, it is always a goal to place someone in the district tournament.”
With such an inexperienced team, Williams’ hope is just for the Indians to be competitive and show improvement.
Tim Ungericht returns as Lehman boys tennis coach.
The Cavaliers finished 5-10 a year ago.
Returning letterwinners include juniors Griffin West, Sam Ritze and Ryan Goettemoeller and sophomores Elias Bezy and Sean Toner.
“Griffin West is our top returning player,” Ungericht said. “He fell one match short of district and was third team all-area as a sophomore. Freshman Danny Ling is our top newcomer.”
The Cavaliers have nine players on the roster and with their experience, Ungericht expects to have a winning season and district qualifiers.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.