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Tennis anyone?

Pictured is the 2019 Connersville High School girls tennis team. Front row, left to right: Giovanna Struewing, Morgan Hauger, Kelsey Smith and Gianna Struewing. Row 2: Rylee Fuller, Hunter Lovett, Jayden Rose, Juliette Collins and Grace Silcott. Row 3: Payton McFarland, Haley Baker, Cambria Frank, Cheryl Garrisonand Abbi Stinger. Row 4: Morgan Dafler, Emily Price, Baylie Wilson, Gwyneth Kibbey, Makayla Cranfill. Back row: Coach Bill Wilhoite and coach Chris Bloom. The Lady Spartans open their season on Tuesday, April 2, at Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference foe Greensburg.

By GRADY TATE - gtate@newsexaminer.com

Some changes have occurred for Connersville High School girls tennis, since the team left the court following a loss to Franklin County in the sectional championship match-up last spring.

The biggest change for the team came at the top, as head coach Chris Diercks stepped down after five seasons and will be replaced by Chris Bloom.

No worries there, however, as experience for the new CHS leader won’t be a problem.

Bloom was a standout tennis player during his years at Connersville High School, and has spent the past three seasons coaching the boys team, so he’ll have plenty to offer the girls team. That experience should be something of use for the team, as it faces some personnel changes on the court.

Gone from the team, via graduation last season, were contributors Shaina Laughlin, Bekah Barnes, Cheyenne Harmeyer, Katie Cooley and Hannelle Burch.

Laughlin was the No. 2 singles player last season, and following a successful senior campaign on the Connersville courts, signed to extend her playing career at Indiana University East.

Burch and Harmeyer served on the No. 1 doubles court in 2018, leaving an additional hole there for Bloom to fill.

Perhaps the biggest void for the first-year coach is at No. 1 singles, however.

Last year’s top player for CHS, Rylee Fuller, is moving to one of the vacant No. 1 doubles slots.

Moving into her singles spot this year will be Juliette Collins, the hitter bringing some skill to the position.

“She’s got experience on the singles courts, playing No. 2 and 3 for us last season,” Bloom said of the junior.

Assistant coach Bill Wilhoite agrees with the move.

“She’s worked as hard as any girl on the team getting ready,” he said. “She’s entered a few USTA events, so she’s been serious about getting better.”

Stepping up to the line into the No. 2 singles court will be junior Jayden Rose, a former student at Oldenburg Academy. She played on the junior varsity unit for the Lady Twisters last season as a sophomore.

“She’s very competitive and works hard,” Bloom said.

On the No. 3 court, first-year player Giovanna Struewing will grab her racquet and go to work.

“She’s picked up the sport really fast,” Bloom said of the senior. “She is very consistent with her shots and moves really well on the court.”

Fuller’s teammate at the No. 1 doubles net will be Kelsey Smith, the senior coming off a campaign in which she patrolled the No. 2 doubles court with Morgan Hauger.

“Those two complement each other really well on the court,” Bloom said of Smith and Fuller. “Kelsey is great at keeping the ball in play, and Rylee hits the ball well. They’re going to be fun to watch.”

Hauger could return to the No. 2 doubles court, but with more than a week to still look at things, a decision on who the No. 2 doubles team will be has not been finalized, Bloom said.

“We’ve got several players that we are evaluating, and right now, we’re looking for someone to play themselves into those two spots,” he said.

Upperclassmen that could move onto that court include Hauger, Makayla Cranfill, Hunter Lovett, Payton McFarland, Grace Silcott, Abbi Stinger, and Gianna Struewing.

In addition to those players, Bloom and Wilhoite have nine underclassman ready to make their mark. Those girls include Haley Baker, Morgan Dafler, Cambria Frank, Cheryl Garrison, Gwyneth Kibbey, Emily Price and Baylie Wilson.

Whether young or old, Bloom says that he’s been encouraged by his charges’ ability to listen and learn.

“They’re doing a great job applying what we are teaching them,” he said. “They’re trying to do those things even though some might not be comfortable for them.”

Mixing up their game a little is still on the to-do list, he added.

“We’re still trying to get them to mix up their shots a little bit,” he said. “We want them to add some variety to their game. That’s going to make them more unpredictable which will make them better.”

While Franklin County does not have the same team that it did last season, getting past the Lady Wildcats in the sectional this time around won’t be easy, Bloom warned.

“Franklin County has to be considered the team to beat again at the sectional,” he said.

That said, he adds that there is hope his charges will be ready for the challenge.

“The end goal is to be the best that we can be when the sectional rolls around,” he said. “I know that a lot of coaches say that, but that’s really the goal with this team.”

The Spartans will be tested early, as the team opens against Greensburg on Tuesday, April 2. Both Bloom and Wilhoite consider the Lady Pirates to be one of the better teams in the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference this year.

“Greensburg, Batesville, Franklin County and East Central should all be really strong this year,” Wilhoite said.

“There are clearly four teams at the top of the conference right now,” Bloom added. “Beyond that, it’s a real dogfight.”



Girls Tennis

2019 Roster

Seniors – Kelsey Smith, Giovanna Struewing, Gianna Struewing, Makayla Cranfill

Juniors – Jayden Rose, Hunter Lovett, Juliette Collins, Grace Silcott, Morgan Hauger, Abbi Stinger, Payton McFarland.

Sophomores – Haley Baker, Cambria Frank, Gwyneth Kibbey, Emily Price, Morgan Dafler, Baylie Wilson, Rylee Fuller

Freshman – Cheryl Garrison

2019 Schedule 

April 2 at Greensburg 5:30 p.m. 

April 4 vs. Batesville 5 p.m.

April 5 at Shenandoah 5 p.m.

April 9 vs. South Dearborn 5 p.m.

April 10 at Oldenburg Academy 5 p.m.

April 16 vs. Centerville 5 p.m.

April 18 vs. Cambridge City Lincoln 5 p.m.

April 20 at Richmond Invitational 9 a.m.

April 22 at Lawrenceburg 5 p.m.

April 23 at Rushville 5 p.m.

April 25 at Richmond 5:30 p.m.

April 29 vs. Franklin County 5 p.m.

April 30 at Hagerstown 5 p.m.

May 3 vs. Northeastern 5 p.m.

May 6 at Union County 5 p.m.

May 7 vs. East Central 5 p.m.

May 9 at Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference (Greensburg) 5 p.m.

May 11 at Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference (Greensburg) 9 a.m.

May 15 Connersville Sectional 5 p.m.

May 17 Connersville Sectional 5 p.m.

May 21 at Richmond Regional 4:30 p.m.

May 22 at Richmond Regional 4:30 p.m.

May 25 at Indianapolis Semistate 10 a.m.

May 31 at Indianapolis State 3 p.m.

June 1 at Indianapolis State 10 a.m.