PREBLE COUNTY — Eaton and Preble Shawnee’s girls tennis teams have their sights set on another successful season.
Eagles soaring to new heights
Coming off one of the best season’s in program history, Eaton’s girls tennis team will no longer be able to fly under the radar.
The Eagles, who finished second in the SWBL and had four district qualifiers last season, have been tabbed as the 10th ranked team in the state in Division II.
“We finished last season as the fourth ranked team in Division II for the Miami Valley. And this season, a third party site, The Ohio Tennis Zone – which is all things in Ohio tennis – has us as the No. 10 team in the state for Division II,” Eaton coach John Hitchcock said. “And despite our strengths, winning our league will be a substantial challenge because Oakwood is the cream of the crop. They are the fifth ranked team in the area. In addition to them, we’ll be playing our toughest schedule ever because I want to push this team and challenge them accordingly so they grow, develop, and hopefully reach their full potential.”
Hitchcock said the team will need to stay focused.
“So our challenge is to manage the hype and the expectations. We just have to play within ourselves and focus on one match at a time. Take care of business between the white lines and don’t pay any attention to the noise outside of the fence,” he said.
Hitchcock said he expected to return six of seven starters from last season.
“Unfortunately we were hit right away with an injury loss to senior Brianna Ward, who really would have made an impact on our doubles,” he said. “Brianna was also a district qualifier last season as she was part of first doubles along with Addie (Bell). It is definitely a blow to the team but we have certainly embraced the next man up mentality.”
But the Eagles return plenty of talent.
Key returners are the three Murphy sisters – Sophia, Tess and Grace.
Sophia and Tess are juniors and Grace is a sophomore.
Sophia is a two time district qualifier in singles and Grace was a district qualifier as a freshman in singles as well. Sophia and Grace were also 1st team all SWBL and Tess was 2nd team all SWBL.
All three held the singles positions last season but this year Tess will look to make the shift to 1st doubles.
The team will also see the return of junior Erika Wilkinson and sophomore Anna Kramer, who held the 2nd doubles spot last year.
“The hope was to keep that pair together and build upon the success they were having a season ago. They were really playing well together and certainly holding their own at that position,” Hitchcock said. “However, without Brianna, we had to adjust initially and move Erika to 1st doubles and have Anna stay at 2nd doubles.”
New to the lineup is sophomore Haneet Kang.
“After putting in a lot of time at our open courts this summer and on her own, she was able to play her way onto the varsity team,’ Hitchcock said. “She will round out the 2nd doubles spot with Anna. The bright spot is, we were going to have to fill Brianna’s spot the following year so the playing experience will benefit Haneet tremendously moving forward.”
The team will also welcome back senior, Isabella Gaydosh-Bruce, junior Lauren Schaurer and newcomers junior Lilly Gerau, and sophomore Laura Dillion.
“These girls will continue to develop on the JV team,” Hitchcock said.
The freshman class is a different story.
“I was disappointed because we only had one come out. However, if you’re only going to get one, it might as well be Eaton’s first-time 5-star recruit in the sport of tennis,” the coach said of his daughter, Macy.
“Macy Hitchcock will be a welcome addition to the team and really help solidify the singles lineup.
Macy has been swinging a tennis racket for over a decade and is certainly no stranger to a tennis court,” the coach said. “She has been and is a frequent player of USTA junior tennis. She started playing USTA tournaments when she was 8 years old and has continued since with reasonable success.’
She even just recently finished 2nd place in doubles in the USTA Girl’s 14’s National Championships in Rome GA.
“A pretty amazing finish all things considered,” the coach said. “For our team she’ll handle 1st singles, while Sophia and Grace will handle 2nd and 3rd singles respectively.”
Shawnee looking to repeat despite losing four players
Kevin Montgomery begins his first year as the girls varsity tennis coach at Preble Shawnee. He previously coached the PS boys varsity team in the spring of 2019 and was the assistant coach for the men’s and women’s teams at Northern Kentucky University. He is taking over for 9-year head coach Dave Hubbard.
Last year the girls team finished the year at 11-5 overall and 5-1 in league and won a SWBL championship. This year’s team is again expected to be a very competitive team in the SWBL even though they lost four varsity starters from last year’s league championship team.
Returning is senior Grace Deaton, 2018 SWBL champion at 1st doubles, junior Zoey Collins, 2018 SWBL champion at 2nd doubles, and junior Michelle Bulach, 2018 SWBL 3rd singles runner-up.
Reserve players from last year, junior Brittney Quillen, sophomore Hannah Riggs and sophomore Maya Davidson have moved up. New to the team this year is sophomore Kylie Gadd and freshmen Maggie Montgomery and Gracie Koelblin.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH