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25 and Counting

The Ontario girls tennis team defeated Baker 3-2 in a District 4 match Tuesday in Baker.

Saying the Ontario girls win a league match has become similar to throwing a broken record on the turntable. It's become very repetitive, to say the least.

Just how repetitive?

The Tiger girls have not lost a dual league match the last two years, putting a string of 25 consecutive dual league wins together and finishing 13-0 last year.

How dominant have the girls been?

The two individual match wins Baker earned were the first Ontario had given up in league all year. It hadn't even dropped a set before that.

Disappointment over the losses, I don't think so. The defending District 4 champions look forward to their home date Friday with Baker before they duel it out Saturday with Vale and head to districts Wednesday back in Baker.

Other than what Ontario girls coach Dennis Gill referred to as a lapse at Baker he said the team has performed very well this year and they always seem to step up a little more than he perhaps gives them credit for sometimes.

"Every year you're going, well it's a building year, and it doesn't seem to be a building year," he said. "After this year I'm losing three seniors, but I have four great freshman so it should be a good season again next year. Just hoping to win the district title again and repeat as district titlists."

Gill had no real predilection of how this year would go, he knew a strong core of players were returning but there existed natural uncertainties about the incoming class, which were soon dispelled.

"I knew I had Amanda Iseri who won the district title last year and did very well at state and I knew I had Colsey Davis and Kristy Church coming back who also went to state last year, but I also knew we're kind of young," he said. "We have four or five strong freshmen. Our freshman class has been very good. So from the beginning we knew we were very young. Overall they've performed really well."

Iseri, a junior who went to the 3A/2A/1A State Tournament the last two years and finished sixth at state last year, said the freshman class is probably the best she's seen the last few years. Davis agreed that the younger girls have really stepped up, while the veterans' play has been strong.

Davis and Church hold the doubles No. 1 spot and are 12-1, losing their only match to Baker. The No. 2 doubles, Heather Gibbs and Kelsey Podanz are still undefeated at 12-0. Iseri is also undefeated in the girls No. 1 singles position and has not lost a set in league and Megan Gibbs has shined as the No. 2 singles player and is yet to lose a match as well.

Gill said Iseri has pretty much blown everybody out of the water this year.

"Amanda's really improved she's a lot tougher. Her ground strokes are a lot better this year. She hits the ball a lot better at the net. That was one of her weaknesses last year, at the net," he said.

Ontario and tennis seem to fit well together.

The Tigers always have had a great tradition, Gill said, and they have won districts four times during his nine year involvement in the program and have placed as high as third at state.

"It's a great program with great kids," he said. "A lot of their parents play tennis and a lot of these kids are two or three sport athletes and they really like tennis because they get to go out on the court by themselves."

Iseri said her father has been a great help to her as an advisor and like much of the rest of the team she keeps her tennis game sharp in the off-season, participating in nearby tournaments and staying conditioned.

"It seems like more girls are out to win this year and they are taking it more serious which has helped us a lot," Davis, a three-sport athlete, said.

Church said the veteran players like Iseri and Davis have taken upon leadership roles, which has contributed to the teams success.

"I think the older people, the No. 1 seeds have definitely set an example of how you are supposed to play," she said.

Church added the team gets along well, which has helped a lot.

Gill said Baker and his Ontario team will have the best shot at districts because of their overall strength from top to bottom.

May 02, 2002    By Mark McComb