The young Beavercreek singles lineup has been tested early and often and the test continues this week.
Freshmen Austin Staiger and Heidi Orloff – who competes on the boys tennis team because she plays soccer in the fall – and sophomore Austin Chong have a combined 35-11 record this season and will help the Beavers battle for conference bragging rights as the Greater Western Ohio Conference tennis tournament gets underway Thursday.
The top eight teams in the conference – Beavercreek among them – will compete at Centerville High School in the gold flight while the silver flight will face off at Troy High School. Play gets underway at both sites at 9 a.m.
“Coming into the season, I thought we might struggle a little bit early because we were so young, but they all competed from the start,” Beavercreek coach Eric Cusick said. “And they have certainly been tested since match one.”
Singles play has been especially competitive this season in the GWOC with a combination of young talent and tournament-tested veterans. At 12-1 Fairmont sophomore Murad Nawaz has been a force, falling only to state placer Noah Connaughton of Hamilton Badin.
“Murad’s mental game is stronger this season as is his point construction,” Fairmont coach Matt Hughes said. “His serve is better too – his game is really solid.”
Veteran players like junior Josh Giambattista, a two-time district qualifier from Centerville, and Springboro senior Jack Diehl, a three-time district qualifier and the Panthers’ only senior, have also ensured that wins wouldn’t come easily in the GWOC.
“Especially at the top of the line-up, the GWOC is incredibly competitive this season,” Cusick said. “It’s been tough, but it’s also been a lot of fun to coach.”
While the No. 1 singles players regularly feel the pressure, it was the Springboro second doubles team of sophomore Matt Satter and freshman Vincent Lyons who recently helped the Panthers clinch the Coaches Cup tournament. Springboro edged out Beavercreek by a single point, 40-39, to win the eight-team tournament.
“It was a good win for us,” Springboro coach Ken Bartley said. “And it comes at a good time.”
With the sectional tournament just a week away, late-season and conference tournaments can serve as a warm-up for postseason play. While both Nawaz and Giambattista have AP exam conflicts on Thursday, they are among the players to watch at the Division I sectional tournament as the top two singles seeds, respectively.