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TENNIS OUTLOOK: Karl, Lady Raptors go for state three-peat

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But Bruins’ Lipman healthy this year to challenge Raptors’ No. 1 in battle of nation’s top juniors

By CAROL STUART
Brentwood Home Page
When it comes to high school tennis, Ravenwood and Brentwood are loaded.

Some of junior tennis’ top talent also still competes for RHS and BHS, including two-time defending state boys singles champ Sean Karl of Ravenwood and Maxx Lipman of Brentwood, who were each ranked No. 1 in the nation in USTA 16s last season.

Sean Karl, ranked No. 1 in the USTA 16s nationally last year, has won the state singles title his freshman and sophomore years.

Lipman missed the season due to a fractured vertebra and fans didn’t get to a scheduled No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown last spring, but the buddies and training partners are scheduled to meet this year in the last regular-season match in April.

The BHS boys state runner-up team from last season has all its lineup back as seniors plus Lipman, and add to that some other top juniors joining the RHS boys program this year.

“It is similar to the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox playing in the same division with only one playoff spot on the line,” said Matthew Lacheta, last year’s Raptors assistant now elevated to head coach.

“. . . My expectation is a showdown verse Brentwood in the district finals. Almost like every other sport this year, from basketball to hockey, it will come down to the Battle of the Woods.”

And then there’s the Lady Raptors, who have won the Class AAA state team tennis titles the past two seasons, along with current senior and No. 1 Lauren Caballero partnering with different teammates for back-to-back state doubles crowns as well.

In Division II, Brentwood Academy has back left-hander Geoff Tulloch, who has played No. 1 singles for three years before suffering a broken leg at the end of last year.

Here’s a breakdown on the tennis teams at RHS, BHS and BA:

Ravenwood High

Girls:  Caballero returns as No. 1 for her senior season after state titles in both team tennis and girls doubles the past two seasons, teaming up last spring with Iris Hao. Senior Madison Stankevich, Caballero’s state champion partner the previous season, also was a regional finalist in singles.

The Lady Raptors went 10-0 in district play and 13-1 overall. Vivian Hao will be a junior, Kelly Rains a sophomore and Tinsley Hastings a junior after winning matches in the state semifinals.
 Iris Hao and Lauren Caballero

“I expect a wonderful season out of the Lady Raptors,” Lacheta said. “The proverbial target is on their backs in every match that they play. We are going to get every team's best effort and have to be prepared for that. State Championships are not won on paper, and the girls understand this.

“I think Ravenwood is circled on a lot of schedules, and it is important to keep our composure and take things one match at time.”

Lecheta said the team’s “work inside the classroom is the only thing that exceeds their tennis ability.” The RHS girls team had an overall GPA of over 4.1 last season.

Caroline Morelli, now playing at Milligan College, and Kayla Anthony were key losses as doubles partners, senior leaders, and undefeated singles players at No. 5 and 6.

But Rachel Hudson, an incoming freshman, and Victoria Go, a sophomore coming off an injury, will have the opportunity to be mentored by the more experienced players in the lineup going for the three-peat.

Obviously, the girls team’s strength includes experience – but also focus. “The tenacity that they display even in practice translates to some amazing things in match play,” Lacheta said.

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However, they may lack some depth this season, plus face a lot of teams that may be hungrier, the coach said.

The Lady Raptors will get tough tests this season from White Station, in a rematch of the past two seasons’ state finals, as well as by Ensworth, Harpeth Hall and Siegel.

Boys: The Raptors are coming off a 12-3 season, but still will be trying to dethrone district favorite Brentwood High after going 7-3 in district.

In addition to Karl winning AAA singles as a freshman and sophomore and being ranked atop the USTA 16s, tournament-savvy freshmen Austin Chitwood and John Shumacher should make an immediate impact along with another highly ranked 11th-grader Brett Derrington.

Derrington, returning to the high school tennis, is ranked 25th in the state of Tennessee by Athletic DNA tennis ranking system for juniors. Chitwood and Schumacher are ranked in the top 300 in the freshmen class in the nation by Tennisrecruiting.net.

Connor Malchow and John Durr are back for their last season after serving as captains as juniors. Junior Jared Stehney returns from a mid-season injury last year and John Kim is also a junior, while freshmen Ryan Gallagher and Ethan Brown also will help boost the program, Lecheta said.

The Raptors did graduate regional doubles finalists Nikhil Sharma and Nishant Biswas, who also were the No. 2 and 3 singles players last season.

“It is tougher for the boys because of Brentwood being in our district hands down,” Lacheta said. “Last year I believe we were a top five program in the state, but we could not make it out of our district because of Brentwood. If things were structured differently we may have had another chance at the state semi level at least.”

New RHS tennis coach Matthew Lacheta was the assistant coach last season.

Lacheta said his team’s strengths are drive and determination and will help the team play as an underdog. But the Raptors have to work on staying mentally tough, he added.

In addition to top competition from district foes Brentwood and Independence, RHS will challenge some other districts’ better programs including Hendersonville and Oakland. The Raptors also play Division II’s University School, which includes some familiar faces from Williamson County.

Lacheta, who has six years experience coaching tennis, is the third head coach in three seasons for RHS but served as assistant coach last year to Brad Herrera. This year the tennis program and school are dedicating the courts and viewing area in honor of A.W. Speake, the school’s original coach who collapsed and died in fall 2010.

Brentwood High

The good news for the Lady Bruins is that the entire tennis team returns, plus has a transfer from Atlanta – Sara Coliano – who will play in the top 3.

Brentwood went 9-4 in 2010, then followed that with an 8-6 team record after replacing five of six starters for last spring.

Nisha Bhuva heads up the lineup of returning players, along with Helen Hosse, Emily Batiste, Virginia Theriault, Lauren Levy, Joyce Kang and soccer standout Meg Howard.

Second-year Brentwood head coach Andy Veal, the Wildwood director and pro, believes the Lady Bruins will have another winning season but will have a difficult time getting past Ravenwood.

The team has good depth and the lineup is solid, but there’s not a strong No. 1, Veal said.

Maxx Lipman, also No. 1 in USTA 16s nationally last spring, will be playing for Brentwood after recovering from a back injury.

Boys:  The Bruins won the 2010 state championship and came up only one victory short in 2011 – and the entire lineup is back along with the addition of former nationally No. 1-ranked Lipman.

The BHS boys team is 29-2 in team matches during Veal’s two seasons at the helm, going 16-1 two years ago and 13-1 last season.

“I see the boys competing for the state championships again this year,” Veal said.

Brentwood’s lineup is so strong that there are really no weaknesses. The team has great depth and is very strong at the top, Veal noted.

Besides Lipman, the Bruins return highly talented Alex Howard, Drake Hernandez, Ryan Satterfield and Evan Borowski.  Other roster players include Michael Arguello, Andy Mullenger, Danny Hester, Will Jayne and Tyler Von Tagen.

Lipman, who didn’t play his first season after transferring from BGA, came back late in 2011 from almost a nearly year-long back injury and has competed in three tournaments. He has already won one tourney on the junior circuit and lost in the semifinals of another, Veal said.

“He seems to be on the right track health-wise but the tournaments are tough on his body because they play so many matches in a short amount of time,” Veal said.

Area tennis fans might want to circle April 18 on their calendar when the Bruins host the Raptors in what might be the district regular-season championship match. And Lipman and Karl might face off in a real match for the first time in a long time.

Brentwood Academy

Girls: Brentwood Academy went 6-3-1 last season on the court and finished fourth in the region, but three-year No. 1 Stuart Dale graduated last spring.

Juniors Caroline Johnston, who will play No. 3 singles, and Kristen Jackson, at No. 5, are among the top returning players and will make a strong doubles pairing as well.

The Lady Eagles are getting a big boost with this year’s freshmen: Brittany Hamrin, Caroline Willis, Sarah Beth Sheets, Joy Prichard and Marissa Rogers. But they’ll be getting some on-the-job training.

“The team is young this year and therefore experience is needed to win the close matches,” BA girls coach Kathy Bradford said. “The girls will become more confident as the season progresses.”

Bradford said the BA girls are motivated to improve and play good tennis plus also encourage each other.

Harpeth Hall and Ensworth will be among the top competitors BA will face on the court this season.

“This is a great group of girls to coach and I look forward to seeing how they perform,” Bradford said. “They will surprise some teams I believe.”

Geoff Tulloch

Boys: Tulloch, son of former MTSU player Mark Tulloch, holds down the No. 1 singles spot for the fourth season and sophomore George Chunn is returning at No. 2.

The Eagles finished in the state quarterfinals last season after posting a 10-2 record, but Tulloch was injured.

“I expect our team to have some very solid wins in our region and hopefully make it further into the tournament this year,” BA boys tennis coach Robbie McCammon said.

BA will have a very deep team with the top eight playing all year now, but Tulloch is the only senior with a lineup of freshmen and sophomores.

Ensworth and USN will be among the toughest competition for the Eagles this season.

 

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