WEST MILTON — An early-season injury to one of Sidney High School’s top tennis players caused coach Donovan Gregory to shuffle the lineup. Consider it good practice for next season.
The Yellow Jackets roster consists of 13 players. Seven of them are seniors and four are in the varsity lineup.
“I wish I had them longer, but I have them for one season so hopefully that will pay out for us,” Gregory said.
“We have a few players coming back, but we definitely have to start recruiting. We’re trying to get more people interested in tennis. Half of my team is graduating so I need to figure out a way to get new people in. I’ll probably get two or three seniors that always come out and want to play. But I need to find more players that want to start early on in their careers. That’s one of our goals.”
Sidney entered a match on Thursday with Vandalia-Butler with an overall record of 2-6 after losing 3-2 at Milton-Union on Wednesday. The Bulldogs are are the most recent strong squad the team has played. Other strong squads like Piqua, Springfield Kenton Ridge, Wapakoneta and Lima Shawnee will prepare the Yellow Jackets for the Miami Valley League and Division I sectional tournament.
Sophomore Kara Mays is 4-2 combined in first (1-2), second (1-0) and third singles (2-0). She’s settled into the first singles position after battling last year’s No. 1, senior Hailey New, for the spot.
“She brings leadership. She was able to beat out a three-year starter at first singles,” Gregory said of Mays. “She’s just consistent. Taking nothing away from Hailey. Hailey was willing to move down in the lineup to do her part to help us win.”
New is 2-6 overall (2-2 at second singles). Sophomore Allison Fultz is 2-6 overall (2-3 at third singles).
“Right now I think we’re pretty set,” Gregory said of the lineup. “Kara kind of took over No. 1. Hailey is doing a great job at No. 2. Allison has been pretty consistent. She’s gotten a lot better this year and she’s doing great for me.”
Senior Jenna Allen and sophomore Jenna Grieshop are 4-3 at first doubles. Seniors Ireland Ike and Avery Shreves are 3-3 at second doubles.
“Doubles has been a work in progress trying to find the right teams … but I think we have a solid group,” Gregory said.
Sidney is 1-1 in the Miami Valley League’s Valley Division with a win against Fairborn and a loss to Piqua.
“I don’t really care as much if I win or lose right now, as long as I play my best and my teammates play well,” Mays said. “I like the competition.”
Playing first singles — and facing every team’s top player — will benefit Mays should she hold the position the next couple seasons. Gregory praised New’s team-first attitude after sliding into second singles.
“I’m excited for her. Kara is a really good opponent,” New said. “We both play really different. She’s super consistent and I tend to hit the ball a little harder. It’s nice to have that little bit of competition to push each other to be the best we can be.
“Playing these teams will push us to be better. For tournament it’ll give us a good feel what it’ll be like. We’re all great friends and it’s a great learning experience.”
Sidney is certainly focused on this season, but Gregory — and even the players — are actively recruiting the school hallways in search of new players to fill out next season’s roster. In addition to this year’s varsity non-seniors, Gregory has been impressed with the junior varsity team.
“I have so many kids that haven’t even picked up a racket before the season. They came out and are light years better,” Gregory said. “It’s amazing to see what my junior varsity has done.”
New has been giving her pitch to get her schoolmates interested in the tennis program, too.
“I love how it’s an individual sport. You can push yourself and do the best you can do. It’s your time and your effort that pushes you on the court, but at the same time it’s a team sport. You can push each other and help each other bond as well,” New said.
“I think we’re going to have a pretty steady foundation with Kara, Allison and Jenna Grieshop to help bring the team out and be the future leaders of our tennis team.”
The Yellow Jackets swept Milton-Union (5-1) in doubles on Wednesday but lost all three singles matches. Mays lost 6-1, 6-2 at first singles while New lost 6-1, 6-1 at second singles and Fultz lost 6-1, 6-1 at third singles.
Allen and Grieshop won 6-2, 6-3 at first doubles while Ike and Shreves won 6-2, 6-1 at second doubles.