Medina first singles player Ali Garrity is ready to take the next step. Maybe the next two steps.
Already a two-time Gazette MVP in girls tennis, Garrity qualified for the Oberlin Division I District a year ago, losing a tough match in the first round.
The left-handed junior, who competed in numerous United States Tennis Association tournaments in the offseason, has higher goals this year, as she hopes to reach the state tournament and perhaps even advance beyond the first round.
“She looks strong, as always,” Bees coach Pete Hoffmann said. “We both have goals for her to make state and even make some waves when she gets there. She would be disappointed if she didn’t make it.”
Three other players who were first-team All-Gazette selections a year ago are also back: Highland’s Nicole Hadler, Wadsworth’s Maggie Thelen and Medina’s Alyssa Schmitt.
Hadler, a junior, was 23-4 as a freshman and 19-2 as a sophomore while playing predominantly second singles, where she won the Suburban League title a year ago. This year, she will replace graduated sister Danielle as the Hornets’ top singles player.
“She won the league at second singles last year and she’s gotten more aggressive,” Highland coach Lisa Reynolds said. “That’s going to help her.”
Thelen went 14-8 a year ago while playing mostly second singles. This year, the senior will move up to the No. 1 spot, where she will replace four-time All-Gazette pick and 2008 MVP Layne Connolly.
“I’m excited to see Maggie take over at No. 1,” Wadsworth coach Kristy Nichol said. “She’s been playing hard all year long.”
Schmitt went 14-10 as a junior while playing mostly first doubles, where she teamed with the graduated Kelsey Leachko to finish second at the Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division Tournament. This year, she could play second or third singles or first doubles, depending on where Hoffmann thinks she can best help the team.
Team-wise, Highland (14-3, 5-2) is the Medina County school most likely to challenge for a league title, but the Hornets will have to overcome the loss of not only Danielle Hadler, but first-team All-Gazette pick Michelle Mullen, who played third singles.
“We lost two really good players on our singles courts, but I think (former doubles player) Ashley Lengel will step in and do a nice job at second singles,” Reynolds said. “I have a couple girls who will be nice third singles players.”
Couple that with a rebuilding Revere, which has won or shared the last 15 SL crowns, and the Hornets have a chance if everything comes together perfectly.
“Revere lost a lot,” Reynolds said. “It’s a matter of whether or not we can beat Green. I think Green is the team to beat, but I think we can challenge for it.”
Medina (4-12, 0-5) is unlikely to move past Hudson or Solon in the extremely rugged Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division, but the Bees could surprise some people.
“Last year, even though we didn’t win those matches, two or three of them were 3-2,” Hoffmann said. “Being a year older, you have to hope you can squeak those matches out.”
Brunswick (3-12, 0-3) will compete in the NOC River Division, where it should have a chance against most opponents.
“We have a smaller team, but they’re solid players,” coach Carolyn Nemec said. “Obviously, we want to win more than last year. I think we’re going to do pretty well.”
Wadsworth (10-7, 3-4) figures to again finish somewhere in the middle of the SL, while Cloverleaf (6-13, 1-6) will have to find a way to beat someone other than departed league member Barberton if it hopes to stay out of the basement.
“We’re just trying to get them to play more (in the offseason),” Colts coach Brenda Hewit said of her players. “A couple of them played quite a bit this summer. If we can get a couple more wins than we did last year, we can move up to the middle of the Suburban League.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or email@example.com.
Matches to watch
Medina Doubles Classic, Aug 20: County teams Highland and the host Bees will be among the schools competing at this annual event, which serves as an excellent opportunity to pair top singles players who might be thinking about playing doubles in postseason action.
Highland at Medina, Sept. 28: This match is annually for the mythical Medina County championship. There’s an outside chance Wadsworth, which plays at Medina on Sept. 6 and at Highland on Sept. 14, could figure in, but this year appears to be no different.
Medina Division I Sectional, Oct. 1 or later: For the first time in memory, all five county schools with girls tennis programs will play at the same sectional site. An exact starting date has yet to be established, but it will most likely be Oct. 4 or 5, with semifinal and championship matches in singles and doubles to be held on Oct. 8. The top four placers in each will advance to the Oberlin District, which will send six singles players and six doubles teams to the state tournament.
Players to watch
Ali Garrity, Medina: The talented left-handed junior is already a two-time Gazette MVP, going 21-7 as a freshman and 20-5 as a sophomore. A year ago, Garrity finished third at the Oberlin Division I Sectional before losing a close first-round match at the Oberlin District. This year, her goal is to reach the state tournament and perhaps even advance beyond the first round. Garrity should benefit from the fact the sectional will be held at her home court in Medina in 2011, which could lead to a better seed at the district level.
Nicole Hadler, Highland: Another talented junior and two-time All-Gazette selection, Hadler will this year move up to first singles, where she will replace graduated sister Danielle in the Hornets’ lineup. As a freshman, Hadler finished 23-4 while playing mostly second singles. Last year, she was 19-2 at the same spot and won the Suburban League title.
Maggie Thelen, Wadsworth: A senior, Thelen earned first-team All-Gazette honors a year ago while finishing 14-8 as predominantly a second singles player for the Grizzlies. This year, she’ll move up to first singles, where she’ll replace four-time All-Gazette pick and 2008 MVP Layne Connolly. Thelen put in a lot of hard work in the offseason, so she should be able to hold her own.
Alyssa Schmitt, Medina: Schmitt earned All-Gazette honors last year as a junior, when she posted a 14-10 record while playing mostly first doubles, where she teamed with the graduated Kelsey Leachko to finish second at the rugged Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division Tournament. This year, Schmitt could play second singles, third singles or first doubles, depending on where coach Pete Hoffmann thinks she can most help the Bees.