PREBLE COUNTY — Eaton and Preble Shawnee’s girls’ tennis teams are looking to build on the success of recent seasons. Both squads feature a good mix of talented veteran and young players who should contend for league and district honors.
Eagles return 4 of top seven players from last season
Coach John Hitchcock heads into his sixth season as the girls coach and this may be his most talented team yet. The Eagles finished 12-6 overall last year and 4-2 in the Southwestern Buckeye League’s Southwestern Division behind league standouts Oakwood and Bellbrook.
“From the varsity lineup we return four of seven girls. And fortunately for us two of those girls were our 1st and 2nd singles players,” Hitchcock said.
Sisters, Sophia Murphy and Tess Murphy, who are both sophomores, return for another season.
Sophia held the No. 1 spot last year and had a great year and was Eaton’s first ever district qualifier by placing second in the Troy sectional. She was first-team all-league in the SWBL and she was voted 2nd team all area by the Miami Valley Tennis Coaches Association.
“Earning that as a freshman is a tremendous accomplishment. Sophia will once again play first singles,” Hitchcock said.
Tess Murphy had a strong year at second singles going 16-8 for the entire year. She was voted 2nd team all-league in the SWBL and received honorable mention on the all-area team. She will be handling the 3rd singles position this season.
Senior Addie Bell played first doubles last season and returns to same position currently. She will bring two years of doubles experience with her as she joins returning junior Brianna Ward. Brianna was part of the Eagles second doubles team last season so she will hopefully continue to improve and build her doubles game as she moves up to first doubles, according to Hitchcock.
The youth movement continues as two freshman fill out the team.
“We have two incoming freshman who have secured varsity positions,” Hitchcock said. “One is Grace Murphy, who is the third sister of Sophia and Tess. Fortunately for us, she has been swinging a tennis racket along with her sisters for the last several years and appears ready to contribute right away. She managed to earn the 2nd singles position for this season.”
Her other freshman cohort is Anna Kramer.
“Anna is basically new to tennis but in a few short weeks she put enough of a game together to be part of our second doubles team,” Hitchcock said. “I really look forward to her game improving in the next few years.”
Hitchcock said Kramer could be joined by sophomore Erika Wilkinson or senior Sam Gramaglia.
“Erika was one of our JV players last season and a very good athlete who I look forward to working with because she has some real potential to up her game. Sam brings some doubles experience with her and she has been part of the program for all four years,” he said.
Eaton also returns most of its strong JV team from a year ago with Isabella Gaydosh Bruce, Ellery Harper, Emma Pugh, Lauren Schaurer, Lydia Fadden, and freshman Haneet Kang.
“I hope for another strong year from us. I would like to improve our win-loss record, however I have purposefully made our schedule stronger and added several various tournaments/invites that I think the girls will enjoy doing,” Hitchcock said. “However, once again our SWBL Southwestern division will be extremely difficult to improve on our third place finish. Oakwood will be the heavy favorite as they have a tremendous amount of talent across the board and Bellbrook always brings a strong squad to the mix.”
Hitchcock said he is looking forward to having at least one player reach the district level.
“I would like to continue the trend of having a district qualifier once again but we’ll have to try and be playing our best tennis at season’s end,” he said.
Arrows ready to fly
Preble Shawnee returns a lot of experience from a team that went 15-4 last season and 5-1 in the SWBL Buckeye Division.
“We have a great group of very athletic young ladies with a lot of tennis experience,” Shawnee coach Dave Hubbard said. “Overall, I am confident we are going to have a successful winning season but, more importantly, I fully expect us to contend again for a league title. It’s probably going to come down to us battling it out with Milton-Union for the championship just like last year. Our girls understand what the goal is and our three seniors have been there before so I will be looking for them to lead the way”.
Leading the way at No. 1 singles is senior Allison Zornes. She missed all of last fall due to an ACL injury but returns to claim the top spot in the Arrows roster. She played on the boys team in the spring as the No. 3 singles players.
“We really missed Allison in our lineup last year when she was hurt and I am very excited to have her back to help lead this team her senior year. She is back to 100 percent thanks to her tenacity and strong work ethic and she is going to have a great year,” Hubbard said of his three-year starter.
Senior Alivia Reek will begin the season at No. 2 singles.
“Alivia is one of the best competitors I have ever coached. She really spills her guts out there on the court every time she goes out,” Hubbard said. “Alivia, along with our other seniors are going to lead this team to a bunch of wins this year.”
Sophomore Michelle Bulach will be at No. 3 singles.
“Michelle is one of our most consistent players, committing very few unforced errors. She really makes her opponents work for every point they win. Michelle had an exceptional freshman season and I have no doubt she is going to build on that success this year,” Hubbard said.
Seniuor Lauren Smith will team with junior Grace Deaton at No. 1 doubles.
“Lauren is another of our senior leaders on the team. She is one of our hardest hitters, employing more of a driving, flat stroke compared to the looping topspin style of most players. Lauren is quiet in her demeanor but her shots speak loudly on the court,” Hubbard said of the four-year varsity player.
“Grace has worked really hard to improve her game and work her way into the varsity lineup. She hits the ball well from both sides, but is one of those rare players whose backhand is her stronger shot. She really drives through that shot with a lot of pace,” Hubbard said. “I am looking forward to seeing Grace put her improved game to work this season.”
Sophomore Zoey Collins and junior Destiney Quillen will make up the No. 2 doubles team.
“Zoey has worked harder than probably anyone to improve her game, taking private lessons all summer. She had a great season last year, winning a 2nd doubles league title,” Hubbard said. “Zoey is a quality young lady who is a delight to coach.”
Quillen also plays for the soccer team.
“Destiney is just a pure athlete with great coordination and speed. She may be the fastest player we have. It’s very difficult to hit a ball that she can’t run down. Destiney is a first year player on our team but has played recreationally for several years,” Hubbard said.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH