WEST MILTON — Up until the night before the match, Milton-Union’s girls tennis team didn’t even know if it would be playing Friday.
But the Bulldogs were able to open their season — and made the most of it, sweeping non-league opponent Kenton Ridge 5-0 Friday at Milton-Union High School to open the fall season, a season that has seen everything thrown into doubt due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m excited that we’re able to have a season right now,” Milton-Union coach Jenny Fox said. “I think we’re lucky and taking advantage of the time that we have. I mean, not every sport is able to say that they’re able to start off the season with their first scheduled match.”
The match nearly didn’t get to happen, though. The Central Buckeye Conference — Kenton Ridge’s home conference — held a vote to see if it would follow the Greater Western Ohio Conference and Miami Valley League in going to league-only schedules this fall. But that vote was 6-6, allowing Kenton Ridge to keep its match against Milton-Union.
“Their coach told me they were having a meeting on Tuesday and a vote on Thursday, and also that it passed,” Fox said. “That’s good, because that gives us a few more matches we get to play. We have Northwestern next Thursday here at home for our next match, and as of right now we still have the Schroeder Tennis Center tournament on Aug. 22.”
Tennis is one of the sports considered low/non-contact by the Ohio High School Athletic Association and thus allowed to take place, but the season has also brought with it special protocols and guidelines to do so to keep everyone safe and limit the pandemic’s spread — protocols such as athletes wearing masks when not participating and social distancing on the sidelines, coaches wearing masks at all times and pre-match temperature and symptom screenings, just to name a few. And everyone present Friday made sure they did their part.
“I’m proud of my girls. They’ve been resilient through all this,” Fox said. “They take every new rule that we have with grace and follow it. They understand that it’s going to keep them safe and out here to play. I’ve not heard any complaints, so I’m really proud of them for sticking to all of our new rules that seem to change daily some times. And the parents have been supportive, too, so it’s great to have that support.”
But when it came time to play, the Bulldogs (1-0) were ready.
At first singles, freshman Shannon Brumbaugh put away Kenton Ridge’s Ava Sullivan, 6-3, 6-2. At second singles, veteran Taylor Falb swept Ashley Mertens 6-0, 6-0. And at third singles, Maggie Black cruised past Ireland Cadagan 6-1, 6-1 to seal the victory early.
Milton-Union’s second doubles team of Madison Silveira and Paige Barnes also made short work of their opponents, Delaney Gray and Kylie Reed, winning 6-1, 6-1. And at first doubles, Amelia Black and Ellie Coate battled Gretchen Hefner and Kyla Collins to a third-set supertiebreaker, eventually rallying to win a two-and-a-half-hour match 7-5, 5-7, 1-0 (10-7).
“The girls have been enjoying it. And I’ve got three seniors this year, and they’re glad to start off their senior years on a positive note,” Fox said. “They’ve been working hard, showing up every day at practice, worked hard in the offseason, and I’m proud to see them out here. We’re excited to see what the season brings.”