An uneven preseason – at least in terms of schedule, rather than performance – had Wellington boys tennis coach Tommy Haddow facing more uncertainty in the lineup than he would like.
The weeks leading up to the Jaguars’ season-opening 3-2 loss at Upper Arlington on March 29 included several canceled practices because of bad weather, not to mention some players vacationing during spring break.
Even with two returning Division II state qualifiers in senior Brayden Chawla and sophomore Sanjan Shanker, who filled the top two singles spots to start the season, Haddow anticipated plenty of mixing and matching as his 11th season progressed.
Senior Sadeq Al-Ali played third singles, and doubles teams consisted of junior Sriharsha Reddy and sophomore Hussein Al-Ali and junior Jack Kalnicki and sophomore Hudson McConnell.
“It’s been hard to get consistent playing time. We were getting better, then the time off came up (because of canceled practices) and the weather put us back a step, ”Haddow said. “I’ll be changing things up until we figure out what’s going on. In 2019, we knew who was where. We had a pretty strong team. I didn’t have to worry about the lineup, but we’ll be a little more patient until things come together. “
Chawla and 2021 graduate Evan Manley went 1-1 at state in doubles last year. Shanker – who like 2021 graduate Griffin Biernat split his two state matches in singles – said he has since adjusted his approach.
“I’ve been working on trying to go more offensive instead of just keeping the ball in play,” Shanker said. “I’m trying to hit more winners and get to the net. In previous years, I’ve played the baseline more. I hit hard from there, but I don’t always go up farther into the court. It’s been paying off. I expect that to be a strength for me. ”
Haddow expected that a few underclassmen eventually might challenge for time in the top seven, but added that he expects the varsity to remain stable early on.
“We’re a little low on depth, but all these guys want to play,” Haddow said. “We’ll be trying to find that third point (to clinch victories). I know we can get two points somewhere. We won’t blow anybody out. ”
A challenging schedule includes the usual Division I powers New Albany, Olentangy Liberty and St. Charles in addition to MSL-Ohio Division matches against Bexley and Columbus Academy.
The Jaguars, Lions and Vikings shared the league championship a year ago and will face off in the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association district tournament, as they are the only three teams in the Division II field.
Shanker said the team is confident in its chances.
“We’re in pretty good shape,” he said. “As long as we can get the ball in play and hit the ball hard, we can have a great season.”
• Coach: Ben McCollough, first season
• Top players: Connor Hayes, Max Lauer, Jake Leach, Adam Narcelles, Hayden Roemer and Tyler Schmied
• Key loss: Kieren Bode
• Last season: 12-3 overall
• 2021 MSL-Ohio standings: Bexley, Columbus Academy and Wellington (5-1), Grandview (3-3), Buckeye Valley (2-4), Worthington Christian (1-5), Whitehall (0-6)
• Outlook: The Bobcats have nine seniors to help coach Ben McCollough, a 2014 Grandview graduate who replaced longtime Grandview tennis staple Kathy Kinnard. McCollough played golf at Capital and played tennis while at Grandview.
The Bobcats finished with just three losses a year ago, all coming to league and Division II standouts Academy, Bexley and Wellington.
The singles courts will feature a combination of seniors Connor Hayes, Max Lauer, Hayden Roemer and Tyler Schmied. Senior Keegan Kearney is also in the mix despite last playing as a freshman.
Doubles options include seniors Jack Greer, Jake Leach, Dominic Moretti and Adam Narcelles.
• Quotable: “It’s been a new experience for me and just having the seniors lead the way for us has been great. They’ve provided good leadership and have helped me out a lot, especially with having so few preseason practices because of the weather. ” – McCollough
• Coach: Will Thieman, fifth season
• Top players: Ryan Baxley, Daniel Goldberg, Joe Saalman and Ethan Samora
• Key losses: Avi Hari, Joey Holland, Jack Jones and Jud Turner
• Last season: 8-8 overall
• 2021 OCC-Central standings: Olentangy Orange (5-0), Upper Arlington (4-1), Olentangy Liberty (3-2), Dublin Coffman (2-3), Hilliard Bradley (1-4), Hilliard Davidson (0-5)
• Outlook: Seniors Ryan Baxley, Daniel Goldberg and Joe Saalman as well as junior Ethan Samora return to pace a team that is seeking its first Division I state tournament representation since 2018 and, because of construction at the high school, is playing its first home matches since 2019 .
Samora was the closest to a state berth last season, advancing to a qualifying match in doubles at district with 2021 graduate Jack Jones before losing in three sets.
Senior Mihai Crisan returns to the lineup after taking last year off because of COVID-19. Coach Will Thieman is also encouraged by freshman Jackson Lloyd, but was still determining early on where he might play.
Other players include senior Tyson Smith, sophomores Ford Clark, Matthew Lederer and Luca Sivilotti.
• Quotable: “We have some talent on the team and we’re ready to play and find out how much better everybody got in the offseason. We should be in some close matches. We’ll grind our way through the season. We’ll put guys in certain spots and hopefully they succeed. ” – Thieman
• Coach: Tommy Haddow, 11th season
• Top players: Sadeq Al-Ali, Brayden Chawla, Jack Kalnicki, Sriharsha Reddy and Sanjan Shanker
• Key losses: Griffin Biernat and Evan Manley
• Last season: 10-5 overall