Having lost the greatest player in the program's history, Ashley LaFountain, the Oak Harbor girls’ tennis team has its work cut out for itself.
LaFountain, who is a freshman at the University of Toledo, earned All-Ohio honors in each of her four years on the team. She advanced to the state tournament all four years, winning four matches to advance to the final eight each time. LaFountain also set the school record for wins and graduated in the top 10 of her class. Her brother, Greg, also holds the boys' school record for victories.
The good news for the Rockets this year is that the team has five seniors who are ready and willing to step in and attempt to fill that void left by Ashley LaFountain's graduation.
Emily Goff, a two-time letter winner, starts at No. 1 singles. Amanda Sosa, also a two-year letter winner, and newcomer Rachel Chafee, are playing second- and third-singles, respectively.
|Oak Harbor seniors Rachel Chafee, Emily Boss, Rachel Helle, Amanda Sosa,
and Emily Goff. (Press photo by J. Patrick Eaken)
Rachel Helle and Emily Boss, both two-year letter winners, play No. 1 doubles and sophomores Kelsey Bodnar and Michelle Boss hold down the fort at second doubles. Libby Grieder will see some time at junior varsity this season and be ready to step in at the varsity level when needed.
Coach Rick LaFountain, Ashley and Greg’s father, says, at times, he has been surprised with the play of the team, especially Bodnar, who is playing her first year of tennis. He also credits Goff with having played well at times, too.
“Kelsey has played really well and Emily goes up against some of the best competition in the Sandusky Bay Conference (at No. 1 singles),” Coach LaFountain said. “Rachel Chafee, a first-year player, has played well at times, too.”
But it's been the No. 1 doubles duo of Helle and Emily Boss who have produced, notching three wins on the year.
Thus far, the Rockets have suffered losses to Port Clinton, Clyde, Edison, Huron, Sandusky St. Mary Central Catholic and Fremont St. Joseph CC. On Wednesday, however, the team notched its first win of the year with a surprise 5-0 victory over Maumee Valley Country Day.
For the second consecutive year, three other seniors decided to not to play at the last minute, a decision that has cost the program dearly.
“There were (a couple) of girls that were going to come out,” Goff said. “We have enough for a varsity team, but we only have eight, which isn't convenient. Sometimes we have to play more than one match because the other teams will need someone to play against their JV players.”
More than anything, the goal for the Rockets is to gradually improve as the season progresses and hopefully peak during the SBC tournament.
“The thing with the tournament is, you (basically) pick straws,” Goff said. “You might draw a bad team and then move on.”
Boss said, “We didn't really state a goal, but we all have this mindset to surprise everyone this year because we weren't as good last year. And we all get along really well and are friends.”
This year, LaFountain sees Perkins, Clyde, Edison and PC competing for the top four spots in the conference.
“The league is pretty strong this year,” LaFountain said. “With the exception of us and Huron, everyone is pretty good. There are no really strong teams. There are some good, deep teams.”