WAPAKONETA – It turns out, there was no magic pill that transformed Wapakoneta’s girls tennis team from a fifth-place team to a champion.
It was just a ton of offseason training.
As Wapakoneta enters today’s Division I sectional tournament at Findlay High School, the five seniors and two sophomores on the starting roster are all hoping to qualify for next week’s district tournament at Bowling Green.
However they finish the postseason, the five seniors will leave an historic mark on the program after going unbeaten in the Western Buckeye League the past two seasons.
It’s impressive considering as sophomores this group was on a team that finished fifth in the league and hadn’t won the WBL since 2001.
“After our sophomore season, we realized we had to put in a lot more work,” said senior Chelsea Myers, who teams with Carly Buzzard at No. 1 doubles. “That’s what’s made the team so much better. We just practiced a lot more in the offseason so when we came back in the summer we were a lot stronger.”
From conditioning and drills at Westwood Tennis and Fitness Center, to hitting as often as possible on their home courts to competing in USTA tournaments, the offseason went from being a rest time to serious training.
“We wanted to get better,” said senior Kaitlin Snider, who has been the team’s No. 1 player since her sophomore year. “We would work year round, not just in the summer. It made us faster and more consistent.”
Last year, Wapak won the WBL regular season and tournament title and finished the regular season 17-0. This past season, Wapakoneta was 15-0 in the regular season and repeated as WBL regular season and tournament champs, winning four individual titles.
Those individual champs included Allie Zofkie (sophomore) at second singles, Kiersten Wellons (senior) at third singles, Buzzard and Myers at first doubles and Madison Watt-Kate Henderson at second doubles. Snider took fourth.
While the turning point began during the offseason two years ago, it really started to show last year when Wapak beat WBL powerhouses Shawnee (4-1) and Celina (5-0) on back-to-back nights.
“That’s when I knew we had a chance to win the league,” Wapakoneta coach Mike Klock said. “There was no doubt, we knew we were better, but it was still up in the air, so it was nice to beat Celina and Shawnee and break that cycle. And then with all the firepower we had coming back this year, I knew we could do it again. The No. 1 thing is we have seven strong players.”
While the OHSAA tournaments begin today, the Redskins have already had some impressive tournament success, reaching the semifinals of the Division I Ohio Coaches Tennis Association tournament. They beat Bowling Green and St. Ursula before falling to Perrysburg on Monday.
For the season, Snider is 14-3, Zofkie is 13-1, Wellons is 14-2, Buzzard and Myers are 15-2 and Watt and Henderson are 15-2.
Snider picked up the third seed in the sectional after winning the individual title a year ago.
“The competition is a lot tougher, especially at districts,” Snider said. “You have to make top two to get to state, so it’s pretty tough. You just have to expect the players to be really good and consistent, you just have to be ready to compete against them.”
The duo of Buzzard and Myers grabbed the fourth seed for the tournament. On Monday, they took on the top seed from Perrysburg and lost a competitive three-set match. Earlier in the season, they beat the Bowling Green squad they’ll meet today.
“Our first goal is to beat BG (in their first match) and then on Saturday we’ll play Perrysburg and get to districts and hopefully eventually get to state,” Buzzard said. “(Myers) is a good forehand player and I’m a pretty good backhand player and our volleys go well together. We do a pretty good job of picking each other up.”
According to Klock, it’s been the entire senior class that has really picked up a program that was middle of the pack a couple years ago but is now a top-tier program in the area.
“This senior class has been unbelievable,” Klock said. “You couldn’t get them off the court, me and (eight-year assistant coach Roy Gillespie) would be hitting with them every night. It’s been a fun year, a fun two years.”