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The Bay Rivers District is loaded with talent heading into the 2016 season and the top spot in the district could very well be up for grabs.
York, Jamestown and Lafayette will be among the top teams in the district this year with some of the best returning individual talent in the area.
A team like Grafton should not be overlooked, however, with a handful of returning talented players of its own.
This collection of talent toward the top of the district should make for an interesting four-team race to the top come late in the regular season, as any one of those teams could claim the district title.
On the outside looking in are the likes of Tabb, Warhill and Bruton. The Tigers are simply too young to realistically challenge for the district title this season, while Warhill and Bruton are still trying to cultivate talent and depth.
Below are previews for every Historic Triangle girls tennis team playing in the Bay Rivers District:
Head Coach: John Jacobson
2016 Classification: 2A Conference 33
2015 Record: 4-9
Players to Watch: Leanne Troutman (senior), Natalie Cross (senior), Helen McCarthy (sophomore), Olivia Garcia (sophomore), Ashley Ivanoff (sophomore)
Season Outlook: Bruton will have to cope with losing last year’s top three singles players in Sydney Wojcieszak, Allison Pratt and Sasha Morris. While Jacobson said his top two singles players, Troutman and Cross, have secured their positions toward the top of the roster, the Panthers have around eight or nine younger players with similar skill levels making up the rest of the roster. With so little separating the middle tier of players skill wise, Jacobson said his players are showing a tremendous work ethic to earn starting playing time. However, with so many young players on the roster, Jacobson said the Panthers could struggle if the inexperienced players struggle with the transition from practice to varsity matches.
Head Coach: Zak Minor
2016 Classification: 4A Conference 19
2015 Record: 10-5
Players to Watch: Winnie Zhang (junior), Claire Nelson (junior), Annie Cao (sophomore), Yuki Ogusu (junior)
Season Outlook: The Clippers will need to replace two graduated seniors in Alex Dixon and Jenne DeShayes. Luckily for Grafton, last year’s No. 1 Zhang returns to hopefully lead the Clippers to a second consecutive conference championship. Nelson, a junior, will fill the No. 2 singles spot for Grafton, while Cao will hold down the No. 3 spot. Ogusu returns for the Clippers after starting last season and will provide consistency at No. 5. Minor said this year’s team shows considerable comradery and should have good morale throughout the season. The Clippers should be competitive this season, though next year could be their breakout year with a senior-laden starting lineup.
Head Coach: Karen Johnson
2016 Classification: 4A Conference 19
2015 Record: 13-3
Players to Watch: Anna Walter (senior), Alisha Kohli (junior), Marie-Helena Peeters (sophomore), Emily Sharp (sophomore)
Season Outlook: Jamestown’s 2015 season ended in the region semifinals at the hands of eventual Group 4A state champions Midlothian. While the Eagles return quite a bit of talent from last year’s team, much of that talent is on the younger side and could result in some growing pains. Walter, the defending Group 4A singles champion, is the star of the team and will be called upon to provide leadership to the younger players. Also returning is Kohli, who Johnson said improved significantly in the offseason. Peeters and Sharp are two younger players who show promise, but will have to be ready to contend with some talented players come time for district matches. Despite her team’s youth, Johnson said she expects a “strong finish” in the Bay Rivers District this year.
Head Coach: Pat Thompson
2016 Classification: 4A Conference 18
2015 Record: 9-6
Players to Watch: Tawni Hatcher (senior), Haley Quarles (junior), Robin Rosewelsh (junior), Abby Johnson (senior)
Season Outlook: Thompson finds herself in a fortuitous position heading into the 2016 season. While some coaches celebrate returning their top singles player, Thompson gets to celebrate the returns of last year’s entire starting lineup that went 9-6 and made the Group 3A East tournament. With that said, Thompson was quick to say Lafayette’s biggest strength will be experience and team chemistry. Returning last year’s No. 1 Hatcher will be a big boost to the Rams, as will the return of other top-four players Quarles, Rosewelsh and Johnson. With an offseason under their belt, Lafayette’s starting lineup should fare better than they did last season, especially in conference play. Thompson said she hopes this year’s team will reach the regional tournament again, winning tough matches against York, Jamestown and Grafton in the process.
Head Coach: Lisa Salomon
2016 Classification: 3A Conference 27
2015 Record: 7-5
Players to Watch: Jenny Gu (sophomore), Julie Hwang (junior), Abigail Adcox (junior), Annie Schwaiger (sophomore)
Season Outlook: Tabb has the youngest team in the Bay Rivers District with just two upperclassmen and no seniors. Salomon, in her first year coaching the Tigers, will have the opportunity to make her mark on the younger players for the coming years, but successes could be limited this season. While youth could be problematic during high-pressure matches, Salomon said the team’s youth has resulted in an energetic and enthusiastic team atmosphere. Tabb’s No. 1 will be Gu, who jumped directly into the starting lineup last year as a freshman and held her own. Hwang and Adcox will provide some stability to the middle part of the singles lineup, but Tabb will need some younger players to step up and round out the starting lineup if the Tigers want to hang in district play.
Head Coach: James Gomes
2016 Classification: 3A Conference 25
2015 Record: 3-8
Players to Watch: Katie Braddom (junior), Autumn Liu (senior), Olivia Dannon (senior)
Season Outlook: The Lions could be in for a long season after graduating last year’s No. 1 Sasha Strakhova and senior Elizabeth Buscher choosing not to play tennis this year. Warhill does return Braddom, who played No. 2 last season and will slide into the top singles spot this year. Liu and Dannon will provide some nice depth in singles, but the rest of Warhill’s roster is littered with question marks. Gomes said he has a handful of good freshman athletes this year, but they will take time to hone tennis-specific skills and adjust to the varsity level. Gomes also said his players struggle with aggressiveness and decision making on the court at times. Warhill’s season will hinge on how quickly the younger players learn and adapt to the speed of varsity play.
Head Coach: Steven Fisher
2016 Classification: 3A Conference 27
2015 Record: 15-2
Players to Watch: Kristin Dantzler (senior), Courtney Jenkins (senior), Julie Zhou (junior), Sydney Kochan (senior)
Season Outlook: Losing last year’s No. 1 Gaby Tersigni, No. 4 Haruna Fukushima and No. 5 Casey Jutras certainly hurts for the Falcons, who fell in the Group 3A semifinals last season. However, York returns Dantzler, who was a state semifinalist in singles and doubles last year. Additionally, the Falcons return experienced players such as Jenkins, Zhou and Kochan, all of whom will be able to step in and play quality tennis for the Falcons. The biggest wildcard for York is freshman Natasha Novak, who has quickly risen to the No. 2 spot on the singles roster. If Novak is able to hold her own against some of the better players in the Bay Rivers District, York could be setting itself up for another deep postseason run. Fisher said depth is his only real concern given some of the youth toward the bottom of his roster.