EATON — After a record-breaking 2020 season, expectations are high for Eaton tennis.
The Eagles earned their first ever SWBL title last season in addition to junior Macy Hitchcock becoming Eaton’s first ever state champion, winning the OHSAA D-II State Tennis Singles Tournament in Mason, Ohio, last October, upsetting the defending state champion in the finals.
“Last season we were able to put the best season in school history together,” Eaton coach John Hitchcock said. “Even bettering the previous years season. We ended the regular season with a dual match record of 14-3 against the most grueling schedule we’ve ever had. For the first time in school history, we went 6-0 in SWBL league play and held off Oakwood in the league tournament to record our first-ever league title. We were the only sport to not have a banner in the high school gym. Now that is no longer the case.”
Hitchcock said a lot of the success was attributed to three girls who graduated: Erika Wilkinson, and Sophia and Tess Murphy.
This year, the Eagles will once again be led by his daughter Macy at first singles. Last year, she finished 32-2, her only losses coming to the winner and runner-up in the D-I State Tennis Singles Tournament.
“After a summer tournament schedule that consisted of the Midwest Closed in Indianapolis, National Clay Court Championships in Huntsville, Alabama and National Hardcourt Championships in San Diego, she’s ready to start the journey to get back to states where she hopes to defend her title,” coach Hitchcock said. “Although she completely realizes and understands that there are no guarantees and she now has the biggest bullseye on her back since her high school career began.”
Furthering Eaton’s cause in singles play will be four-year varsity player Grace Murphy, who will be playing for the first time without her sisters.
“Grace will be a very important part of our success as she will be a strong presence in our singles lineup,” coach Hitchcock said. “A season ago, she only experienced one loss at third singles and we’re very hopeful we get similar results this season. Grace is a tremendous asset to our team. She is a tremendous worker, very coachable, very competitive, and you can always count on getting maximum effort from her on the court. Her leadership by example is invaluable as well. She is poised for a big year.”
Wrapping up singles will be another member of the Hitchcock family.
“Macy now gets her younger sister on the team,” coach Hitchcock said. “Incoming freshman Mallory Hitchcock will be a key addition and in reality, truly helps minimize the loss of Sophia Murphy. Much like her sister, Mallory is no stranger to a tennis court. She has been playing competitive USTA junior tournaments from a very early age. She is currently considered to be a four-star recruit for her 2025 class. She has also had a busy summer participating in several national tournaments including National Hardcourts in Rome, GA for G14s. She is expected to make a positive impact right from the start in singles.”
At doubles, Anna Kramer and Haneet Kang will team up for the third consecutive year, which coach Hitchcock said is unheard of in high school tennis.
“The key difference will be that they move into the first doubles spot left vacant by Tess Murphy and Erika Wilkinson. So, the chemistry that two have been able to develop over the years will be put to the test as they take on a little stronger competition than what they’ve had in the past,” he said. “Anna’s serve and strong net play will certainly be needed along with Haneet’s spirit, fight, and heart. Anna’s ability to handle pressure is key as well. She’s a natural athlete who also excels in basketball and softball. Haneet’s drive and determination to improve is uncanny, and I hope some of our younger JV players take note of it.”
Rounding out the roster is several returning JV players including junior Harmony Atkinson and sophomores Olivia Brooks and Kylie Chaney. Newcomers include seniors Maddie Wright and Laura Dillion as well as freshman Mercy Hype and Adylan Pannighetti.
One question still remaining for this year’s team is who will take over at second doubles.
”Laura Dillion has looked good. She was actually a member of the team as a sophomore but chose to take last season off. Harmony brings a strong desire with her and she had some success on JV last season,” coach Hitchcock said. “Maddie Wright is also in the hunt. She brings a surprisingly good skill set despite having never really played before.”
Following the school’s first league title last season, coach Hitchcock feels good about a potential repeat.
“This is a brand new SWBL conference this year with the realignment. Several of the schools we didn’t play last season so I truly don’t know what to expect,” he said. “Despite that, I like our chances to contend for a title. We were once again in a good position to take on Oakwood and Bellbrook this season but they are no longer on our side of the league. Our doubles teams will have to be ready for a challenge and we’ll need our ‘A’ game from the singles positions. But I’d really like to add some more titles to that brand new banner in the gym and this would be the team to do it with.”
Eaton tennis will begin its season with a match at home against Madison on Thursday, Aug. 19 beginning at 4 p.m.
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles