Friday, March 23, 2001

Ohio boys tennis preview

Walnut Hills favored by coaches

By John Schutte
Enquirer Contributor

        Parity is the theme for the boys tennis season. Area coaches agree any one of six teams has a legitimate shot at claiming the city championship.

        “I can't remember six teams so closely packed,” St. Xavier coach Russ King said.

        Walnut Hills coach Chris Hemingway agrees.

        “Don't expect anyone in the top five to go undefeated. The city championship will be decided by who is most consistent, and who is playing best in April,” Hemingway said.

        Walnut Hills is the coaches' preseason favorite to finish the season on top. Princeton, St. Xavier, Sycamore, Indian Hill and Turpin will all be in the hunt.

        The Eagles feature one of the state's top singles players in Eric Thomas. As a freshman Thomas finished fourth at state.

        “Eric has taken himself to another level in the offseason. He has a lot of weapons, but he added a strong first serve to compliment his game,” Hemingway said. “If he was playing this well last year I think he would have won state.”

        Jason Zimmerman of CHCA is the top returning Division II player. Zimmerman is a state qualifier and played in the Australian Junior Open last summer.

        1. Walnut Hills: For the second straight season Walnut Hills enters the season as the No. 1 ranked team. Thomas will play No. 1 singles with seniors Jonathan Khoury (26-0), Greg Pipkins (19-7) and Daniel Smith battling for the other two singles spots.

        “We've kept our three singles players, so I think we have an experience edge over other teams in the city. I'll take my top three against anyone in the state,” Hemingway said.

        2. Princeton: Sophomore Wil Lofgren takes over the No. 1 singles spot after going undefeated (16-0) in No.3 singles last season.

        “Wil is ranked fifth in the country in 16-and-under doubles and in the top 150 in singles,” Princeton coach Bob Caress said. “He has an all court game and rarely makes mistakes.”

        Seniors Kevin Teufel and Rob Caress join Lofgren at singles while the doubles teams are yet to be decided.

        3. St. Xavier: The Bombers return several players in their quest for a second straight city title. Andy Bartish, Neil Seghal and Vivek Ramaswamy will fill in the singles slots with both doubles teams still up in the air. Seghal finished second in doubles at state and Bartish finished fourth in doubles.

        The Bombers will be tested early when they travel to Toledo to face St. Francis and St. John's. The city championship could be decided in May when St. X plays Walnut Hills (May 3) and Sycamore (May 8) in a five-day span.

        “Walnut Hills, Princeton and ourselves are all similar in that we have three good singles players,” St. X coach King said. “I think we hold an advantage in doubles with our depth, but it depends on how they mix their lineups.”

        4. Sycamore: Derek Johnson, Marshall Kuresman and Bryan Pittman all return as seniors from last year's team that finished No. 5 in the Enquirer's final coaches' poll.

        With a wealth of experience returning, Sycamore will be one of a handful of teams with a shot at winning the city title.

        “There will be some great competition on the team. All 11 players are good enough to challenge for a starting position,” first year coach Mike Teets said.

        Seniors Derek Johnson, Marhsall Kuresman and Bryan Pittman will provide leadership. The Aviators also are blessed with a strong junior class.

        5. Indian Hill: Four of the Braves' top players return from last season's team that finished No. 8 in the Enquirer's final coaches' poll. Ryan McCarthy and Mike Compton return to the top two singles spots after posting solid seasons. Matt McIntire and George Musekamp also return to a deep team.

        6. Turpin: Strong singles players and good depth are the Spartans' strengths. West Virginia-bound senior J.R. Randall moves into the No. 1 singles slot after playing No. 2 last year. Matt Miller and Tim Geraci move to singles this year leaving some questions marks at doubles.

        “We have very strong singles players and we are pretty deep this year,” coach Scott Childers said. “We need some younger players to step up in doubles.”

        7. Anderson: The Redskins must replace four seniors from last season. Ryan Ragle steps up to No. 1 singles after posting an 11-2 regular-season record at the three slot last year. Depth and experience are concerns.

        7. Seven Hills: Alex Comisar, Nick Binkley and Chris Wyant return to form the core of a strong team. Depth and a winning tradition will help the Stingers cope with the loss of key players.

        9. Lakota West: The Firebirds will put up stiff competition to GMC foes Princeton and Sycamore. Senior Matt Metully, a transfer from Washington, will fill the first court and give Lakota West more firepower.

        Coach Mike Mueller returns seniors Matt Hambleton, Matt McManus and juniors Brian Savino and Dale Smiley.

        “We have good overall team strength. We are solid down through the lineup and will compete on every court,” Mueller said.

        10. Oak Hills: The Highlanders are looking to improve on last year's rebuilding. Coach Rod Thomas returns both doubles teams and all three singles players. Leading the way will be David Oyler, who finished last season with a 10-4 record.
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