A pair of Columbus tennis teams’ No. 1 singles players and the coaches who led them on deep playoff runs pick up the 2011 Ledger-Enquirer All-Bi-City Tennis team’s top honors.
Brookstone girls No. 1 singles player Katherine White was voted the All-Bi-City Girls Tennis Player of the Year for the third time in four years, and Northside No. 1 singles player Hunter Spicer has been voted the All-Bi-City Boys Tennis Player of the Year.
Brookstone girls coach Mary Lynne Cumiskey earned All-Bi-City Girls Tennis Coach of the Year honors for leading her team back to the state semifinals, and Northside’s Tim Zabel took the All-Bi-City Boys Tennis Coach of the Year honors for taking Northside back to the quarterfinals in its first season in a new classification.
White leads talented team
White, a Notre Dame signee, finished 12-2 as her team won its 40th consecutive region championship and reached the Class A semifinals, where it fell to eventual state champion Mt. Pisgah.
She won state championships with Brookstone as a freshman and sophomore before spending her junior season at a tennis academy, and she said the 2011 team stands out to her as the most talented in her time at Brookstone.
“I think we had one of our strongest teams ever, and it was at least the best team I had ever been on,” White said. “We didn’t win state, but that was because, while we had our best team, we also had the toughest competition of any year.”
White faced another challenge this season as she was recovering from wrist and shoulder surgeries. But she said she steadily improved throughout the season and believes she will be at 100 percent when she reports.
“I think I’m about ready,” White said. “After my two surgeries, it’s been kind of a slow process getting back into everything. I just started back playing in tournaments last week, and with each match I feel like I’m getting more and more back into it. By the end of the summer I think I’ll be all the way back.”
Cumiskey is top coach
Brookstone’s Cumiskey earned the top girls coaching honors by leading her team to its 40th consecutive region championship and into the Class A semifinals with a 15-4 record that included a dozen 5-0 sweeps.
Cumiskey credited her team’s success to a strong and experienced lineup that included a No. 3 singles player, Alex Snipes, who a year earlier led Brookstone to the Class A semifinals in the No. 1 position. With the return of White and No. 2 singles player Hennsey Ngo in 2011, Cumiskey was able to spread that experience out from top to bottom.
“When you have three exceptional singles players, it makes coaching easy,” Cumiskey said. “Plus, my doubles teams worked harder than they have ever worked and were able to go undefeated in the region and in state play.”
Cumiskey said her team’s reputation has allowed her to field experienced, hard-working and dedicated teams each year.
“Most of my players have been playing since they were young kids, and they know the tennis tradition at Brookstone is big,” Cumiskey said. “I think they realize that if they’re going to be able to get a spot on the team, they’re going to have to start working hard early. Having so many kids wanting to do that, it produces a lot of good talent each year.”
Zabel back in quarterfinals
Fellow tennis coaches were already impressed with Northside’s Zabel after he led his team to the quarterfinals for the second consecutive year. Add in that he did it in the school’s first season after jumping up a level to Class AAAA and with a 17-6 record and it’s an accomplishment worthy of coach of the year honors.
Reaching the quarterfinals again was a relief for Zabel, who has announced that 2011 would be his fourth and final season coaching the Northside tennis team as he is retiring from teaching in Georgia.
“It’s always great leaving like that,” Zabel said. “It’s great to be able to go out in a situation where two years in a your kids made it to the top eight in the state. I was really happy and pleased with the way this year turned out for us.”
Zabel, who also coached the Northside swim team for eight seasons, said he felt he left the tennis program in position to continue succeeding and that he enjoyed seeing the 2011 senior class work its way through the ranks.
“It was a lot of fun developing these players the last four years,” Zabel said. “It was fun to see how they could grow, and we all had a good time over the years, especially this year. Everyone laughed and joked on the bus, they had a good time, and everyone wanted to win.”
Spicer leads Patriots
Winning a Region 1-AAAA championship and reaching the quarterfinals again was also a relief for Northside’s Spicer, a senior who earned boys player of the year honors in his senior season.
“It felt good to do just as good as we did last year and make it to the quarterfinals again,” Spicer said. “In a new classification, that was pretty big for us.”
Spicer finished the season 17-3 in the Patriots’ No. 1 singles spot while going undefeated in region matches and having two of this losses coming in third-set tiebreakers.
Zabel said Spicer led the team by example in 2011, particularly early in the season.
“Our singles players, especially Hunter, carried us a lot of the year,” Zabel said. “Eventually, our doubles players really started picking up. But with players like Hunter and (Carlos Arana), we could usually count on them to win matches and help us out.”
Chris White, 706-571-8571; follow Chris online at twitter.com/le_chriswhite and at facebook.com/lechriswhite.