By Chris Chaney
Coming off of an outstanding 13-0 season and Southern Buckeye Conference championship a year ago, the Bethel-Tate Lady Tigers’ tennis team could be forgiven for having a down season. After all, the team lost four All-SBC performers to graduation as well as longtime coach Kurt Charlton, but under the guidance of first-year coach Betsy Weeks, the Lady Tigers are not only still competitive, they’re vying for one of the top spots in the SBC American Division.
“With last year’s team as the league champs, we had a lot to live up to,” Weeks said. “We had two returning players coming into the season and one of those two tore her ACL in the preseason, so we were down to one veteran. And for basically having a brand new team, I think we’ve done really well.”
The biggest challenge for Weeks was filling the void left by the graduating seniors while also helping some of the underclassmen from a year ago to improve on their skills.
“Since we had so many seniors who played last year, we’ve just tried to recruit, recruit, recruit and the majority of the team this year is freshmen,” Weeks explained.
The lone returner on Weeks’ squad is junior Chloe Henderson. Henderson plays first singles for the Lady Tigers and has posted a record of 7-2 so far this season.
The other two singles courts are made up of Henderson’s classmates Melissa Dameron in second singles and Suzie Havran in third singles.
While those three bring some experience to the court for Weeks, the doubles situation is still fluid up to this point.
“We rotate doubles because we have six brand new players who all play doubles and they’re all pretty much on the same playing level,” Weeks explained. “Tiffany Shouse, Angela Schuler, Drew Evans, Liz Kilgore, Alyssa Barnhouse and Jordan Troxell.”
Weeks explained that the doubles teams have seen some success, but there are still no dominate duo that has taken over a certain spot.
While Western Brown and Amelia have given the Lady Tigers some problems so far in the season, Weeks believes her team is right up there in the third slot with the rest of the competition.
A third-place finish would exceed not only Weeks’ expectations from the beginning of the year, but would also reaffirm Bethel as one of the top programs in the conference.
Weeks said she was expecting a good year out of Henderson because of her returning experience, but the play of her relatively young and inexperienced team has turned some heads.
“I am extremely pleased that we have a shot at winning record this season,” the coach said. “With such a new team and so many underclassmen, I wasn’t expecting them to perform that well, but we’ve done great considering. They’ve met my expectations and more.”
As for aspirations for the rest of the season, Weeks wants to solidify her doubles teams to get ready for sectionals while also taking three of the final four matches of the season.