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Muskingum tennis teams looking for improvement

Published: April 4, 2010 12:04 AM

Ron MillerThe Daily JeffersonianNEW CONCORD -- Coming off a disappointing season, the Muskingum University men's tennis team is looking to get back to the Ohio Athletic Conference tournament, while the women's team appears to be in the beginning stages of becoming competitive again.Eight-year mentor Seamus Reilly returns four lettermen this year, with only one senior on the squad and Jason Hilborn the only player lost to graduation from a team that finished 4-11 overal land 4-5 in the OAC, the first losing season in Reilly's tenure."I was very disappointed in last year," Reilly admitted, "but am excited about the season this year and we are looking for a good season."The lone returning senior is letterman Kyle Valajo (Bethel Tate). Junior lettermen back include Malcolm Reed (Squirrel Hill-The University School), Seth Holdsworth (Coshocton) and Adrian Matthews (Bluffton). The other junior is Yash Lalawani (India-Deli).Sophomores include the Reichley brothers (Derek and Ryan) from Tri-Valley and Hunter Huffman (Colorado Springs-Cheyanne Mountain) and freshmen are Dale De Fluiter (Columbus-Bishop Waterson) and Daniel Gomez Merino (Albacete, Spain).Reed will be the No. 1 singles player with Matthews at No. 2, Merino will be No. 3 singles, De Fluiter at No. 4, Valajo as the fifth singles player and Huffman at No. 6 singles."Reed has taken the leadership role and is very committed to the program," Reilly said. "He has played a lot of off-season tennis to get better. Matthews is the ultimate team player, a great kid and we are fortunate to have him in the program. It will be interesting how the freshman from Spain does. He has adapted well and I think he will play a key role."I think De Fluiter will fit well in the No. 4 singles," he added. "He comes from a good program at Bishop Waterson and he will help us. The senior Valajo just keeps coming back and gets better every time. His commitment to excellence is endless. Huffman is a transfer from Seattle Pacific and is an incredible athlete who could give us a lot of wins at the No. 6 singles."The goal this year is to get back into the top of the OAC and Reilly believes that the experience gained last year will be a big factor in achieving that."Everyone is improved this year," he pointed out, "especially the Reichley brothers, Matthews and Reed. The extra year's experience has helped and the junior Lalawani should be breaking into the lineup soon."In doubles, Reed and Matthews will be the No. 1 team, while a decision has not been reached in who will fill the second and third doubles slots with the Reichleys and Lalawani in the mix.After a couple years of mediocrity, 11th year Muskingum women's coach Mary Beth Caudill believes that this year may be the start of getting back to where the Lady Muskies can be competitive again."This year we are looking for some improvement," she said. "Maybe not in wins and losses, but in scores. We have four good players back, but have five players that have never played before."Caudill returns just two letterwinners from a 1-13, 0-8 OAC team. Lost to graduation were Molly Hoover, Valerie Cestoni and Laura Gibson. Several other decided not to come back out this year.Senior Nicole Meyer (Bethel Park, Pa.), a three-year letterwinner and three-year captain, returns at both No. 1 singles and doubles. Freshman Kristin Demidovich (Lewis Center-Bishop Watterson) will be at No. 2 singles and team with Meyer in the number one doubles squad.Junior, two-year letterwinner Amanda Chema (Medina-St. Vincent-St. Mary) will be the third singles player and will team with freshman Cassandra Sarver (Reynoldsburg-Watkins Memorial), the No. 4 singles player, on the second doubles team. Freshman, Libby Johnson (London) will play fifth singles and third doubles, while sophomore Allison Thomas will be the sixth singles player and team with Johnson at No. 3 doubles.Senior Kayla Sherman (Pleasant City-Meadowbrook) along with freshmen Taylor Buss (Newcomerstown), and Elise Hooley (Columbus-Grandview Heights) round out the roster."Meyer is captain for the third year, which shows the respect the team has for her," Caudill pointed out. "She is by-the-book smart and understands the game. She is a great leader, but has had some trouble finishing. The freshman Demidovich is a tremendous asset to the team and has a lot of tennis savvy. She was a high school tennis player and is a tremendous competitor."Chema was our No. 4 singles player last year," she went on, "and has improved. She has a great attitude, but we need to develop a killer instinct in her. Sarver is an excellent fighter winning a three-set match against Heidelberg. Thomas and Johnson have some athletic ability. I have had to move some people ahead of where they are ready for and there is a distinct line between our top four and the next five.""This will be an individual based year," she said. "This is a building year and we are looking forward to having some of these freshmen for four years and maybe next year we can be real competitive."

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