By Chris Chaney
The Southern Buckeye Conference released its selections for Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and First and Second Team All-Conference earlier this week with the Bethel-Tate Lady Tigers garnering some much deserved praise.
Senior first singles player Clare Schaljo was named the America Division Player of the Year while head coach Kurt Charlton was awarded the Coach of the Year honor in his final year as the Lady Tigers’ head coach.
“This is my fourth year coaching and each year we’ve been right there (as far as) being the league champs,” Charlton said. “But it would come down to one or two key matches that we couldn’t pull off, so it really meant a lot to seal it this year. It really meant a lot to go undefeated, which is something few coaches are able to do and it’s a great way to end the season and my career as well.”
The Lady Tigers have been a perennial top-three team in the SBC American Division during Charlton’s tenure as head coach coming in second once and third twice before taking the division following the 2012 perfect season.
A key reason for the Lady Tigers’ success stemmed from the fact that they knew that they had one of the best players in the league and city playing in their first singles spot in Clare Schaljo.
“Clare was hands down the Player of the Year,” Charlton said. “She actually has been in contention for Player of the Year all three years that she has played and was finally able to get it this year.
“She’s one of those top-notch players. She didn’t really have a tough match in the league this year. She won every league match in straight sets. She only lost one set all year to a girl from Batavia, which was in conference, but not in league.”
Schaljo’s spotless record in the regular season earned her the No. 3-seed in the sectional tournament, but she was unable to qualify for the district tournament after losing her second-round match Caroline Zack from Mariemont, 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7-3).
“It was good to see (Schaljo) shine this year,” Charlton said. “She’s one of those athletes who can do anything she wanted to. She could go on and play at the next level, but I’m not sure if she will, but she definitely has the skill to do that.”
Along with Schaljo and Charlton, the Lady Tigers had three other members of their team selected to the All-SBC ranks.
With Schaljo, Melissa McMullen and Mackenzie Rinehart were named to the First Team All-Conference while Madison White was picked for the Second Team All-SBC.
“Six of our seven varsity players were seniors this year,” Charlton said. “I had coached all of them for three or four years and most of them hadn’t even picked up a racquet when I started coaching them so it was great to see them all build from the ground up. But, (I believe) that all seven of our varsity players deserved to be All-Stars this year, including our sophomore, (Chole Henderson).
“They all deserved it, but unfortunately only a few can get picked, but it was good to see them all peak their senior year and finish out strong.”
Also recognized as First Team selections in the American Division for their exceptional play this season were Amelia’s Mallory Buten, Goshen’s Fah Robbins and New Richmond’s Sarah Jones.
The Second Team All-SBC American Division included Mallory’s twin sister, Holly Buten, Goshen’s Brittnie Manning and New Richmond’s Alex White.
In the National Division, Blanchester dominated the individual awards, but Lillian Arthur of Clermont Northeastern, Heather Tatman of Felicity, Caitlin Knudsen of Batavia and district qualifier Mary Ostingy, also of Batavia, were named to the First Team.
The Second Teammers included Jordan Skinner of Batavia, Elizabeth Glasgo of CNE and Kaitlyn Waters of Felicity.