EATON — Coming off of the most successful tennis season in Eaton girls history, coach John Hitchcock and the Eagles will look to dethrone Oakwood atop the Southwestern Buckeye League.
“Last year, we were very blessed to have our strongest team in the history of the program which not surprisingly led to our most successful season ever, collectively as a team and individually,” Hitchcock said. “This was accomplished without having any seniors on the team, so we are very fortunate to return all seven varsity starters to the exact same positions.”
Finishing with an overall record of 16-2, the Eagles were ranked the No. 2 Division II team in the Miami Valley Tennis Coaches Association Poll and, for the first time ever, were considered one of the top ten Division II teams in the state in 2019, finishing at No. 9 according to the Ohio Tennis Zone.
“Despite the strong finish, we finished second in the SWBL because, unfortunately for us, Oakwood has one of the best teams in the state,” Hitchcock said.
Eaton has high expectations coming off of last season, but Hitchcock said that with schools like Mason, Sycamore, St. Ursula, Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy and the other top Dayton schools on their schedule that it will be difficult to repeat.
“And when you have Oakwood ranked as the top team in the entire state, it certainly will make contending for a league title very challenging,” he said. “With that said, I anticipate a super strong showing and full out effort from our girls for that title.”
Hitchcock said it will start with returning first singles player, Macy Hitchcock, a sophomore who he said shattered many firsts for the program.
This includes becoming Eaton’s first ever state qualifier by becoming its first ever district champion, and she was also Eaton’s first ever Dayton sectional champion as well as SWBL champion at first singles.
She was awarded Division II Player of the Year, First Team All-Area, First Team SWBL and was the only freshman selected to the All-Ohio Girls Team for Division II.
“She finished the year with a 34-1 record and her one bad break came at the State Tournament when she had the terrible misfortune of having to play the two time defending state champion in the very first round,” he said. “It did not go well but hopefully with the losses, there are lessons in which to build off of. Macy’s biggest challenge this year will be trying to live up to great expectations and trying to raise a very high bar she set last year. She definitely wants another crack at the state tournament but there are no guarantees in this world and she’s going to have to earn her way back.”
At second singles, Eaton returns senior Sophie Murphy who, along with the help of her sisters was, putting Eaton tennis on the map as a freshman, according to Hitchcock.
Murphy is a four-year starter and a three-time district qualifier, twice in singles and once in doubles.
“She was our very first sectional champion out of Troy back in 2018. She finished at 22-4 last season and made First Team SWBL for the third year in a row. She was Second Team All-Area and placed third at sectionals in doubles,” Hitchcock said. “She is a strong and tenacious player. A true gamer. If the match calls for a battle, she’s usually up for the challenge. We’re hoping she has a great last year and finishes strong. There are strong aspirations for a deep post season run with her sister Grace in doubles.”
This brings Hitchcock to junior Grace Murphy, who fills the third singles position for Eaton for the second year in a row.
Hitchcock said she had a terrific season last year which culminated in a 24-2 record against some very competitive opponents.
“Grace is our quite assassin. She doesn’t really get rattled or emotional. She goes about her business and takes care of her business,” he said. “We’re hoping for more of the same this year. She is a three-year starter and a two-time district qualifier. She was Second Team SWBL and Third Team All-Area. She, along with her sister, placed third at sectionals in doubles and she is extremely motivated to have a strong push in the post season.”
First doubles for Eaton will be seniors Tess Murphy and Erika Wilkinson.
Murphy, a four-year starter, and Wilkinson, a three-year starter, were 23-9 last season, placed second in the SWBL and earned Second Team All-Area.
“It’s not often you get to return the same pair to the same position so we are really hoping they can use the experience of playing together last season to their advantage,” he said. “They just really need to hit the ground running.”
He added that their skill sets are nice compliments to each other, and that they play for each other which is what good doubles teams should do.
Second doubles will return two juniors, Anna Kramer and Haneet Kang.
Kramer, a three-year starter, and Kang, a two-year starter, finished 22-9 last year and placed second in the SWBL in addition to earning Third Team All-Area.
“They as well have very good chemistry and fight for one another,” Hitchcock said. “They had some pretty gutty performances last year and we are really hoping they can continue to improve and develop their doubles skills because we are really going to need to fill the void when Tess and Erika graduate.”
In addition to the singles and doubles starters, Eaton’s junior varsity squad will feature sophomores Harmony Atkinson, Anna Collins and Maggie Ott, and freshmen Olivia Brooks, Kylie Chaney, Maeghan Cohorn and Kate Hauser.
“So, overall, when we return a team such as ours, the last thing you want is complacency. Even with our most grueling schedule to date, complacency could be the toughest opponent of them all,” Hitchcock said. “It’s going to require myself, our seniors, our studs, to help the team stay sharp and focused especially in these uncertain times. I think they need to treat each match as their last one, and bring a fury of energy and intensity.”
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles