By Josh Brown
MIAMI COUNTY — As the start of tennis season nears, here are five pressing questions facing Miami County teams and athletes this spring:
1) Can Troy’s Shane Essick take the next step?
His freshman season, playing second singles behind graduate Luke Oaks, Troy’s Shane Essick qualified for the district tournament and lost in the first round.
Last year, Essick took a step forward in all aspects, taking over the first singles spot on the team, winning a sectional title and advancing to the district’s second round, falling one match short of a state berth.
Logically, the next step will be to repeat as sectional champion and advance to state — but the Division I district tournament is simply put as tough as it gets. Oaks made it to state only as a junior, and before him the Trojans’ last state qualifier was K.C. Schaefer in 2000. Can Essick begin a streak?
2) Can the Trojans sweep the sectional again?
Essick won the sectional title in singles last year, and Nick Prus and Andrew Magoteaux won the section title in doubles. All three Trojans are back this season. Again, logic dictates that they should pull off the repeat.
But that’s why sports exist — you never know what may happen. Magoteaux will likely move to singles in the regular season, with Prus remaining at first doubles and playing with a new partner or partners throughout the year. But a lot can happen over the course of a full season. Prus and Magoteaux could team up again when the postseason rolls around, or Magoteaux could continue playing singles and Prus could go for the repeat with another teammate. With the start of the season mere days away, anything is possible right now.
3) How will Tippecanoe fare in the GWOC?
This question will only need to be asked one more time, but it’s been a consistent one all year — and results have varied, with mainly positive results.
But Tippecanoe struggled last season against its new Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division rivals when it played them, getting swept by Troy and Greenville but defeating Butler 3-2. And the Red Devils got a lot younger this season, too, and may need to spend more effort finding themselves before they begin searching for their place in the GWOC.
4) Can Philip Brumbaugh get back to state?
As a sophomore, Milton-Union’s Philip Brumbaugh teamed up with older brother Matt Brumbaugh and qualified for the state tournament. Last year, teamed with graduate Logan Dickison, the duo came up one match short.
Now, in Brumbaugh’s senior year, he will have one final chance to get back to the Division II state tournament. He could attempt a singles run, as he did as a freshman. Or he has two younger brothers — freshman Nathan, who will play second singles, or returning doubles player Nick — that he could team up with. Either way, expect him to make a strong push.
5) How much will weather be a factor?
It’s like a cloud hanging over every spring sport — literally.
Whether it’s snow early in the season or rain throughout, Ohio’s predictably unpredictable weather is always a threat. Tennis has been affected more than most over the years, with sectional tournaments constantly moved indoors, both in the fall and the spring. Between that and regular season reschedulings, Miami County’s tennis players could be in for a wild season.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.