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For most of Kendal Hammel’s 19 years coaching boys and girls tennis at Columbus North, he’s helped kids from Columbus East improve their games.
Hammel, the head tennis pro at Tipton Lakes Athletic Club, and TLAC owner Jim Stone have worked together for nearly two decades. With Stone coaching the boys team at Columbus East, they’re also leading rival teams that most years square off for sectional titles.
“Honestly, it’s never been an issue at all,” Hammel said. “We don’t even talk much about it.”
“It’s a little different,” Stone said. “We get along pretty well. I don’t think there’s any grudge one way or the other, so from a work standpoint, I think it works out. But especially now that we don’t work together on the court, it works out real well.”
Stone worked with North and East kids when he was a tennis pro at TLAC before buying the club five years ago. Now, he doesn’t work as much with kids on the court, even with his own players.
Instead, Hammel and his staff handle most of the teaching.
“My instruction is not for North kids; it’s for all the kids out on the courts,” Hammel said. “I get along great with all the kids from East. I don’t treat them any differently out on the court, and it’s the same way here at the club with Jim and I.”
On the high school courts, what once was a lopsided rivalry has heated up the past couple of years. The Olympians broke a long losing streak to the Bull Dogs with a pair of wins in 2011 and captured a sectional title. Last year, North won two 3-2 matches against East and reclaimed the sectional.
“It hasn’t been a rivalry for many, many years because we’ve been pretty dominant versus East up until the last couple of years,” Hammel said. “Now, they’ve gotten a little bit stronger the last couple years, and they’ll be good again this year.”
A look at the area teams:
The Bull Dogs were looking at another promising year with all but one varsity player back from a 16-4 team. But medical situations with two key returners have depleted their depth.
Junior Mitchell Miller, who played No. 1 and No. 2 doubles, is having surgery this week on his left wrist. He could come back and play in a cast. Sophomore singles player Rahul Jha has had some heart issues and isn’t playing this season.
Hammel welcomes back The Republic Athlete of the Year for Boys Tennis in senior Luke Red, who played No. 1 singles as a sophomore and early in his junior year before moving to No. 1 doubles. Hammel is leaning toward putting him at No. 1 singles.
Junior Anthony Sanders, senior Krishan Narsinghani and sophomore Kevin Luo filled the three singles spots last season. They’re battling for those positions with junior Jake Likens and sophomore Aditiya Mantri, who played some No. 2 doubles.
Senior Kamal Maharjan also played doubles last season and will be there again.
“The other ones are up in the air with how we decide to do singles,” Hammel said.
Senior Nick Littrell is also looking to crack the lineup.
With eight freshman, Stone calls this the youngest team he’s had at East. However, five starters return from a team that went 13-4.
Junior Seth Meyer is back at No. 1 singles. Seniors Matt Fuehne and Alex Pegram played No. 1 doubles last season, but one or both of them could play singles this year.
“We’ll probably go as a team as well as Fuehne and Pegram go,” Stone said. “We’ll ride their shoulders. Those guys have to be the leaders.”
Sophomore Jo Jo Woolwine played No. 3 singles, and sophomore Alex Galle played some No. 3 singles and No. 2 doubles.
Freshmen Sammy Woolwine and Matt Furnish will likely fill the other two spots in the lineup. Also pushing for varsity spots are freshmen Arjin Menon and Neeraj Pandita.
The Jets have five varsity players back from a 3-10 team, plus another who saw some varsity action.
Junior Kyle Benedict, who played some No. 1 and No. 2 singles, likely will take over at No. 1 singles. Sophomore Will Rose moves up from No. 3 to No. 2 singles, with sophomore Avery Tallent stepping in at No. 3 singles.
Junior Joel Benedict, who played No. 1 doubles and No. 2 doubles, will be at No. 1 doubles with senior Zane Urbans, who played No. 2 doubles. Junior Adam Carr and either sophomores Noah Miller or Luke Meier will be at No. 2 doubles.
“We actually play a pretty good schedule,” Hauser coach John Pratt said. “You have to set high expectations, but reasonable. I think it’s reasonable we could be above .500 and contend for the conference title.”
The Panthers lost their top two players from last year’s 11-9 team. Seven of the 10 players this year are freshmen or sophomores, and four are new to the sport.
Junior Tod Brown, who played No. 3 singles, and sophomore Owen Land, who played No. 2 doubles, are battling for the No. 1 singles spot. Sophomore Adam Jackson, who played No. 1 doubles, will be at No. 3 singles.
Senior Colton Pifer, who was at No. 2 doubles, will play No. 1 or No. 2 doubles. Senior newcomer Conner Wheeler and sophomore newcomer Avery Johnson likely will fill two of the other doubles spots, while freshman Luke Ertel or sophomore newcomer Jacob Woods will be at the other.
“One thing I like about these new guys — they want to get better,” Jennings coach Deron Brown said. “They’re competitors. They may not do a lot this year, but down the road, I see a lot of good things happening for them.”
The Eagles have all but two players back from a team that went 11-10.
Seniors Bryce Fish and Brady Rose and junior Dakota Patterson likely will play singles, while seniors Nathan Miller and Shane Franklin and junior Evan Rose are slated for doubles action. Sophomores Eli White and Levi Patterson could play singles or doubles.
Coach Kevin Roush said freshman Cash Myers, Eli Patterson, Cole Smith, Austin Roush and Jesse Williams also could crack the lineup.
“I expect our team to be strong at both doubles positions, with plenty of options,” Kevin Roush said. “We also should be stronger at the singles positions than in the past with another year of experience.”
The Lancers suffered a big blow last week when sophomore No. 1 singles player Kyle Pendleton suffered a knee injury while playing basketball. He was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Wednesday.
Sophomore Kinser Bryant, who played No. 3 singles, would likely move to No. 1 if Pendleton can’t go. Senior Chris Quillen would stay at No. 2 singles.
Pendleton’s twin brother, sophomore Zack Pendleton, played No. 1 doubles and would move to singles if Kyle Pendleton is out. Sophomore Dalton Biecker will be at No. 1 doubles.
Sophomore Anthony Weber will play No. 2 doubles. Four freshman are battling for the other No. 2 doubles spot.
The Cougars hope to improve after losing only one player to graduation.
Senior Henry Welker played No. 1 singles and is battling for that spot with senior Aaron Bloch, who played No. 2 singles. Senior Conner Galyen returns after playing No. 1 doubles, and senior Jack Lucas played No. 3 singles and No. 1 and No. 2 doubles.
Galyen, Lucas and sophomore Andrew Rodriguez are battling at No. 3 singles. Senior Joe Willman and sophomore Andrew Rodriguez or junior Brett Burbrink will be at No. 2 doubles.
Also looking to crack the lineup is sophomore Tanner Prewitt.
The Owls have everybody back from a team that struggled to a 2-15 record.
Seniors Alex Craig and Ben Coomer at No. 1 and No. 2 singles and sophomore Brady Rinehart at No. 3 singles are back. Juniors Andrew Rudge and Seth Stuckwisch played No. 1 doubles, and sophomore Josiah Rudge and senior John Kleber were at No. 2 doubles.
Andrew Rudge could move to No. 3 singles. Freshman Alex Berry could step in at No. 3 singles or No. 2 doubles.
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