OCHS tennis aims for the deep run | Sports

Tennis season is in full swing and Oconee County High School showed off their talent.

While the girls’ and boys’ teams have each suffered a few defeats, they remain unbeaten in the region so far.

Oconee County tennis has big shoes to fill this season after both teams advanced to the semifinals of last year’s state tournament. The Warriors also started with a better record, but head coach Derek Hon isn’t worried about those numbers.

A trip to Jekyll Island in February for the annual Jekyll Jam tournament increased the number of competitive opponents the Warriors faced compared to the start of last season.

“We didn’t have the same competition because we weren’t allowed to go to the Jekyll tournament,” Hon said. “One of the girls’ losses and two of the boys’ losses came in this tournament. It’s a very competitive tournament. So, while our records may not be as stellar as last year, I feel like we’ve had more competition and that’s much better for our team.

With an 8-3 record so far, the men’s team has improved from last season thanks to improved doubles courts.

Assistant coach Jimmy Blose has worked with the doubles players to improve their game, and it shows on the court. The short one doubles have had wins in every game, while the short two doubles pair have only lost twice.

Hon said the players’ ability to step into a doubles role when needed has overall allowed for a deeper squad.

Senior Haruki Takeuchi has been a crucial member of the men’s team whether he’s playing singles, doubles or watching from the sidelines.

“He’s definitely a great leader for our boys,” Hon said.

On the contrary, the women’s team depended on freshmen.

When the court’s singles player was unable to play due to injury, rookie Cadence Keese stepped in in that spot for the Warriors. Jenny Hu, another first-year singles player, helped the Warriors through regional play.

“If you asked me at the start of our college season how much they would play, I would say, maybe a little bit here and there,” Hon said. “We had to play them more than I thought. And they’ve done very well so far.

While freshmen have been crucial for the Warriors, senior Julianna Hayunga has been perfect on the court. With the exception of a game suspended mid-term due to darkness, Hayunga has won all of his games this season, including a tiebreaker third set to help Oconee County to a win 3 -2 against North Oconee.

“She’s so consistent and rock solid,” Hon said. “She’s a really fierce competitor. She never fights, she always forces her opponent to beat her. She’s willing to play really long games and long points and grind those points and usually her opponent crumbles.

Even with only a month and a half remaining in the regular season, Hon is hoping for another deep run in the state tournament. The Warriors are looking to continue their unbeaten streak in regional play, which would earn them a tournament seed.

Both the boys and girls have reunited with key players from last season, so Hon thinks the boys’ and girls’ teams can improve from last year.

After falling to Westminster in the semi-finals last year, Hon hopes to see the Wildcats back in the playoffs as that would mean a Finals appearance due to regional placement.

“We hope to stay away from them until we reach the final, but obviously we have to win a bunch of games before that happens,” Hon said. “I’m not saying it’s a hard and fast target for us, I think we want to make a deep run like we did last year.”

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