SWBL Winter Previews: Swimming
Depth will be a big factor for the Eagles and head coach Rob Johnson. “The growth our team has had in the past few years is staying true this year,” Johnson said. “We should be around 50 team members. This should give us the ability to represent each event well.” Key returners include seniors Peter Guthrie (sprints and breast), Josh Vawter (sprints) and Rylan Carper (butterfly) and junior Mia Nazarenus (diving). Gutherie has the potential to break the 100 breast record (59.01) currently held by 2018 grad Cole Huggard.
Senior Caleb Griffy (breast and IM) and sophomore Hunter Gisewite (freestyle) will anchor the Blue Devils. Head coach Ashley George (three years at BHS) is enthusiastic about the potential of this year’s club. “We are excited about the upcoming season,” George said. “We have a number of returning swimmers, as well as many brand new swimmers we are excited to introduce to the sport. We broke two school records last season with our men's freestyle and medley relays. We lost a senior from that group, but are hopeful we can keep up the times with accomplished swimmers stepping into the lost position.”
Head coach Amanda Dixon returns seniors Kurt Browning and Lucas Haag and junior Yury Bair. The boys 400 free relay has the potential to set a school record.
Head coach Tracey Bachmann takes over at Monroe where she will lean on Dawson Hall (junior), Meredith Lara (senior) and diver Alexis Fleming (senior). Said Bachmann: “I am excited about my return to coaching and developing the program at Monroe.”
The Lumberjacks and Jills are out to defend their SWBL titles. Oakwood has won 17 of the last 20 SWBL titles in girls swimming, while the boys have won 17 of the last 18 league titles. Head coach Eileen Epley enters her second season. The goal is simple. “We’re hoping for another SWBL boys and girls sweep,” Epley said. “We’re also looking to take a large team to districts and also hoping to take boys and girls relays to state, plus individual state qualifiers.” A loaded roster includes seniors Tristan Prizler, Colin Beck and Lily Epley; juniors Truman Brun and Paige Simon; and sophomores Callie Hayes and Matilda Prizler.
Head coach Joe Stewart (10 years at RHS) returns a wealth of quality swimmers, including junior Cooper Burt (two-time state qualifier and top 8 finisher in the state, SWOC Champion), junior Connor Bennett (two-time state qualifier, SWOC Champion), senior Conner Norton (two-time state qualifier, SWOC Champion), sophomore Luke Mignery (state qualifier, SWOC Champion), senior Elizabeth Theroux (three-time district qualifier, SWOC Champion) and sophomore Addy Sparks. Stewart said the girls team will be young (mostly freshman and sophomores), while the boys should be one of the favorites to win the conference. Expect several school records to be challenged this season and Burt is looking to potentially become a state champion in the 100 backstroke. “We’re looking forward to joining a new conference with new challenges and better opponents,” Stewart said. “We are looking forward to challenging ourselves and our growth by the competition provided. We will prove ourselves worthy as a swim program that needs to be respected in Southwest Ohio.”
SWBL Winter Previews: Bowling
Head coach Matt Witte (three years at EHS) has several returning standouts on the girls and boys teams. Senior leadership is a strength of each squad. The boys are coming off a third place finish in the SWOC, which is their best finish since 2015-16. Senior Michael Marts, juniors Brandon Williams and Trent Stewart and sophomore Anthony Carlotta are key returners. Freshman Ian Mullins is a newcomer to watch. Four-year starter and senior Annalyse Bunger headlines the girls team. Other key contributors will be senior Katelyn Thompson, sophomores Liberty Troutman and Breanna Colfax and freshmen Cali Taulbee and Mikayla Ehrnsberger.
Head coach David Rolph (eight years at MHS) returns four starters from last year’s boys team that went 15-1 and set multiple school records. The goal this winter? Reaching the state tournament. Seniors Trey Lambert, Brayden Cole and Zachary Bachmann and junior Corey WIlliams Carter create a formidable foursome.
Coaches Adam Albright and Michael Burns return to Valley View for their sixth season in charge of boys and girls bowling. The senior trio of Damascus Parker, Kage Gierek and Patrick Fileccia headline a young team that must replace some solid talent lost to graduation. Competing for a spot at districts and qualifying a bowler to state is the annual goal. Said Albright: “We have a lot of growing to do, but we will be strong by the end of the season.” Senior Leah Adkins and sophomores Kaydence Kinney and Kim Braden will lead a girls team that Albright thinks will qualify a bowler to the district tournament for the first time. “We are young and learning,” Albright said. “We will be strong toward the end of the season before the sectional tournament.
SWBL Gameday Athletes of the Week (11/28)
The Southwestern Buckeye League is proud to introduce the SWBL Athlete of the Week program for the 2023-24 school year. The SWBL AOW is sponsored by Gameday Grille & Patio. Each Tuesday during the school year, a male and female scholar-athlete will be selected Athletes of the Week and announced on site. Winners will receive an award patch for their varsity jacket, a $25 gift card to Gameday and an SWBL AOW T-Shirt. An athlete may win the award once per season. Nominations will come from athletic directors, coaches and data (stats, results) entered on the SWBL website. Individuals may also submit nominations to email@example.com.
Boys: Micah Valenti, Valley View Football
Senior had 11 tackles, two TFL, carried the ball four times for 17 yards, caught three passes for 58 yards and returned a kickoff 80-yards for a touchdown in a 14-10 Division V state semifinal loss to Liberty Center. Finished the season with 1,048 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns on 166 carries and 587 yards receiving and five touchdowns on 34 receptions. Also made 82 tackles (seven TFL) and had seven interceptions (returned one for a touchdown). Was named first team All-SWBL on both sides of the ball at running back and defensive back. Also first team All-Southwest District at DB.
Girls: Brooke Woody, Waynesville Soccer
Senior finished second in the SWBL this season in points (71) and goals (31). Ended her career with 165 points (68 goals and 29 assists). Big part of the Spartans winning a state title (2021), two regional titles (2021 and 2022) and going 58-7-1 the last three years. Two-time first team all-league selection.
SWBL Winter Previews: Boys Basketball
The Eagles won seven straight outright SWBL titles from 2005-2011 but have one co-championship (2018 with Franklin) in the last 12 years. Head Coach Donnie Tate (76-86 in seven years at BHS) will lean on senior forward Kellen Solomon (10.5 ppg 3.5rpg) and junior guards Austin Webb (15.5 ppg) and CJ Scohy (7.3 ppg 4.1 apg). Last year those three were all-league and accounted for 137 of Bellbrook’s 219 made 3s. According to Tate, defense and physicality will be the main factors separating a good or a great season. Playing fast and long-range shooting is the plan. “We are young, but experienced,” Tate said. “We'll start one senior, two juniors and two sophomores with sophomores coming off the bench. Last year we were one of the best in the state in 3-pointers made (219) and 3-point percentage (41.6%). I expect that we could match or exceed those numbers this year.”
Blue Devil faithful have high expectations. Head coach Jeff Davidson (191-185 in 17 years at BHS) returns almost the entire nucleus from last year’s 14-9 (7-6) club that finished league runner-up. Senior guards Jace Wood (15.7 points and 5.7 rebounds) and Brendan Fisher (9.7 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists) were first team all-league last year, while junior point guard Dom King (9.8 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists) was honorable mention. Also back are senior guard Cole Crabtree (6.7 points and 3.6 assists), senior forward Keegan Mehr (3.8 points and 3.0 rebounds), senior forward Coltin Lawson (1.9 rebounds) and sophomore forward Braedan Smart (5.0 points and 2.2 rebounds). “We return all our key contributors from last year with the exception of one graduating senior,” Davidson said. “We’re looking to build on our 14-win season in 2022-2023, compete for a league title and make a tournament run.” Brookville’s last SWBL title was in 2019.
Head coach John Giles (31-14 in two years) said the Indians are facing their toughest schedule since his arrival at CHS. In addition to an expected improved division, the non-league slate includes Fenwick, Preble Shawnee and Tri-Village. The good news is plenty of talent and three first team All-SWBL players return from last year’s squad that finished 19-4 (11-2) and won the league title. Junior guard Blake Lawson averaged 15.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists last season en route to being named first team all-league for the second consecutive season. Junior forward Brendon Rowe (9.7 points and 5.8 rebounds) and sophomore forward Justyce Taylor (6.6 rebounds) also earned first team honors. Taylor led the SWBL West Division in FG% (64.3). Senior forward Cruz Allison will contribute heavily. “We have a good mix of experienced players and newcomers this season, and our success will be dependent upon our ability to develop team chemistry,” Giles said. “We hope to continue improving and developing as a program and to be playing our best basketball the second half of the season.” Giles was choosen SWBL West Division COY last season.
Head coach Sean Sims (16-20 entering Year 3) expects the Eagles to compete for the program’s second SWBL title in three years with a solid, experienced nucleus returning. Senior guard Ramy Ahmed (16.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.6 apg and 2.4 spg) is back after earning SWBL Player of the Year honors. He is just 236 points shy of 1,000 for his career. Also returning are junior guard Conner Bach (5.7 ppg) and junior forward Preston Orr (4.1 ppg and 5.1 rpg). “We’re very excited to compete with this great group of boys,” Sims said. “Looking forward to a very exciting season.”
The Cougars are coming off a 6-17 season as they enter the SWBL. Edgewood did win the SWOC title in 2021-2022. Head coach Jason Osterman (19-26 in two years) will build around senior guards Eddie Thompson, Jaylen Barry and Connor Ballantyne and senior forward Brayden Smith. “We are excited to be joining the SWBL with a goal of competing for a league championship,” Osterman said. “We have a good senior class that gained a lot of Varsity experience last year. We also have some young talent that we are expecting to make an immediate impact at the Varsity level. Our goal is to play at a fast place and look to our defense to create offensive opportunities.”
Head coach David Alford enters Year 2 with five players that started varsity games last year, including junior guard Kai Cook and senior guards Jace Murphy and Carter Black. Cook, who led the SWBL in scoring last year (21.9 ppg), has a chance to eclipse 1,000-career points this season. “We look forward to competing in the new SWBL with the shift in divisions and addition of Ross and Edgewood on the Southwestern side,” Alford said. “We believe our combination of experience and new additions to the team gives us a chance to compete.” Franklin’s last league title came in 2021.
The Mohawks last league championship came in 2020, which capped a three-year title run, but head coach Shane Richardson (25-42 entering fourth season) has the horses to end that short title drought. Madison returns five players that played major minutes last year. With the depth and returning experience, they’re looking to push the pace and get up and down the floor. Senior guard Drew Whisman, junior guard Grady Combs and senior forwards Jaylin Pendleton and Aiden Grooms are the main catalysts. Whisman (8.8 ppg and 2.3 rpg) and Combs (9.3 ppg and 3.6 rpg) were first team All-SWBL last season. Said Richardson: “Will be a physically disciplined, mentally focused club forcing our brand of basketball. I feel we can compete with anyone.”
Head coach Casey Popplewell returns for his second stint at the school. He was previously head coach from 2010-2015. Key returners include a trio of juniors in forward MJ Mapp, center Carson Poe and guard Kemper Atha. Said Popplewell: “We look forward to getting better every day and being a tough out for anyone in the tournament.” Monroe’s last and only SWBL title came in 2007.
First-year head coach Braden Short migrates from Bellbrook where he was a varsity assistant prior. Short inherits a program coming off back-to-back SWBL titles. Replacing two-time SWBL POY Will Maxwell (school’s all-time leading scorer), who is now at Dayton, is a hurdle. Key returners for the Lumberjacks are senior forward PJ Bremner (8.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.9 apg), senior guard Aidan Jacomet (7.0 ppg) and junior guards Luke Rubin and Jackson Thobe. Bremer was first team all-league last season. Oakwood expects to be competitive in the SWBL and primed by tourney time. Said Short: “This season we want to play fast, physical and bring a high level of energy each night.”
Head coach David Lane (90-51 in six years at RHS) welcomes back several key returners from last year’s 10-13 team. Junior guard Ben Voegele (11.4 points) and senior guard Issac Nunn (10.3 points) both earned All-SWOC honors last season. Senior guards Riley Caldwell (8.0 points) and Keithen Castator (1.5 points) also saw extensive action. “We are in a new league with a tough non-conference schedule,” Lane said. “We are looking to compete for an SWBL title and gain some valuable experience against some solid teams for the D-I state tournament.”
The Spartans basketball season will be impacted – again – by the football team’s deep playoff run. Expect seniors Michael Valenti (9.7 ppg and 4.3 rpg) and Caden Henson (9.0 ppg, 1.8 rpg) to lead the charge once Valley View sheds the pads. Junior post Peyton Flannery (3.4 ppg and 4.4 rpg) also returns.
Head coach Travis Williams enters his 10th season with the program and third as head coach (23-21 last two seasons). Senior guards Nick Warren (9.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg) and Conner Berry (5.6 ppg and 2.4 rpg) return. Warren was first team all-league last year. Waynesville’s last league title acme in 2019. “After graduating a big senior class, the new wave of Spartans are ready for their new opportunities on the court,” Williams said. “Returning our leading scorer (Nick Warren), along with a great shooting backcourt, we are excited for this year.”
SWBL Winter Previews: Girls Basketball
The Eagles have won three consecutive SWBL titles, are 43-8 the last two years and earned the No. 1 seed in the Division I district tournament last season. Gone from that squad, however, are Kelley Griffin (Mount Union), Ashley Frantz (two-time first team all-league) and Olivia Trusty (Wilmington). Senior forward Taylor Scohy (two-time SWBL POY) and senior guard Alayna Meyer (two-time first team All-SWBL) return for head coach Jason Tincher (353-111 in 19 years). Scohy has committed to UT-Martin. Juniors Jordan Frantz (19 games, two starts) and Izzy Painter (24 games) add experience. An ambitious schedule awaits with games against Mount Notre Dame, Mason, Kings, Wayne, Springboro, Olentangy and Beavercreek. “We’re embarking on our toughest schedule to date, but we look forward to the challenge as one of the smaller D-I schools in the state,” Tincher said. “Fourteen tough out of league games should help prepare us for the postseason.”
First-year head coach Josh Kummer will build around senior guard Ashlee Haupt (10 ppg) who was first team all-league last year. Other key contributors will be senior forwards Abi Stanoikovich and Sara Carr and junior guards Hunter Gardner and Jordyn Oliver. “The leadership of the returning upperclassmen and the potential of the freshmen class will be crucial in shaping the team's trajectory,” Kummer said. “While there may be challenges along the way, the team's collective talent, depth, and determination will position them well for an exciting and competitive season. Fans can anticipate a team that plays with passion, teamwork, and a relentless pursuit of improvement as they work towards achieving their goals.”
Head coach Tony Phillips (54-66 entering sixth year at CHS) is expecting big improvement on last season’s 4-19 record. “I am looking for my young group to band together and outplay everyone’s expectations,” Phillips said. “We have a lot of new faces and our returners are hungry to turn things around. I look forward to my kids competing every game.” The senior trifecta of guard Layla Knapp (5.8 ppg), post Alaina Eldridge (4.9 ppg and 8.1 rpg) and guard Ashlyn Allen (5.0 ppg and 5.9 rpg) is experienced. Knapp was all-league last season. Key newcomers include junior Justine Bowlin and freshmen Brynn Gill and Makenna Bicknell. “Our seniors have really stepped up and taken the reigns of this team,” Phillips said. “We were not happy how last season went and are eager to get back on track. We are striving to get better every day and you should look for a completely different team this year.”
The Eagles must replace longtime varsity stalwarts Olivia Baumann (Ohio Northern volleyball) and Lily Shepherd (Ohio Christian University) but do return a solid tandem in junior Olivia Orr (7.7 ppg and 5.2 rpg) and sophomore Emilee Hargis (5.0 ppg). Orr was first team all-league last year.
Head coach Xavier Fugate (25-22 in two seasons at EHS) and the Cougar faithful have high expectations for this season with the return of four seasoned-seniors, including point guard Rylie Homan who will be a four-year starter. Homan is set to become the school’s all-time leader in assists and steals and is just 150 points away from 1,000. Guard Maddy Judd, forward Graci Halsey and center Drew Swartzel round out the senior quartet. The loss of 6-foot-1 sophomore Ella Allen to a torn ACL hurts. “We are looking to get back to having a winning record,” Fugate said. “We return four seniors who have played big minutes for us in the past. We are extremely excited to be part of the SWBL and the tough schedule it brings in Girls Basketball.”
The Wildcats and head coach Matt Abshear (entering second season) are looking to build on last year’s 5-17 finish. Senior guard Addie Berry (7.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg and 2.2 apg) and sophomore guard Oliva Truesdell (7.7 ppg and 5.9 rpg) will lead the charge. “It’s going to be challenging on our side of the league,” Abshear said. “We have the usual heavy hitters, but are looking to grow and improve from game to game.”
There’s a lot to like about the Mohawks. Head coach Brian McGuire (158-119 in 12 years) returns a talented core from last year’s 16-7 club that won the SWBL West Division title. That experience and some young talent has Madison planning on going 9-10 deep. Key returners are 6-foot senior forward Kylie Wells (11.7 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 2.3 apg and 2.2 spg), senior guard Emily Webb (8.2 ppg and 4.0 rpg) and junior guard Malerie Bobbitt (3.7 ppg). All three were all-league last season. Wells is attempting to be a four-time first team selection. “We will play faster this year than we have in the past, because of our depth and skill,” McGuire said. “We are expecting to finish in the top half of a very strong SWBL Buckeye.”
Justin Clemmons, a 2014 Edgewood graduate, takes over at Monroe, where one priority will be increasing numbers. Clemmons was previously an assistant at Monroe (boys) and Edgewood (boys and girls). This is the 27-year old’s first head coaching job. Sophomore Jordan McComas (9.3 ppg) was first team all-league last season. Senior forward Paityn Corthell (4.9 ppg and 4.1 rpg) has committed to Mount Union. Senior guard Saffron Weidner (8.3 ppg) adds experience.
The Jills graduated seven seniors off last year’s 15-10 team, but the cupboard is far from bare for head coach Rich Bagienski (31-17 in two years at OHS). “We hope the large group of incoming young players will develop quickly in order to merge with the returning varsity players and become a solid unit,” Bagienski said. “The team had a productive summer program that should aid in the transition that several players will need to make as they go from junior varsity to varsity level play. We are pleased with the progress that was made during the off-season and excited about our chances this season.” Key returners for Oakwood include senior forward Caroline Hamblin, junior guard Ashley Bowden (11.2 ppg) and a trio of sophomores – center Evelyn Connor (10.4 ppg and 6.5 rpg) and guards Caroline Roelle (5.2 ppg) and Riley Morrissey. Bowden and Conner were all-league last season.
The gameplan for the Rams is simple. “We are going to apply as much pressure as we can on offense and defense,” head coach Ben Buehner said. Buehner, who is 37-57 in four years at RHS and 138-137 in 14 years overall, returns a solid nucleus from last year’s 9-14 squad in senior guard Myah Boze (7.4 points and 4.3 rebounds), senior forward Annslee White (3.9 rebounds), junior guard Lanie Lipps (14.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists) and junior guard Caroline Chernock (5.7 points and 3.9 rebounds). Lipps, who has a chance to break the school’s career record for made 3-pointers, was first team All-SWOC last year, while Boze (Marshall track recruit) was second team. A D-I program, Ross has strengthened its schedule, highlighted with a trip over Christmas break to Myrtle Beach.
Head coach Steve Dickson is beginning his 26th season with the program and 22nd as varsity head coach. He owns a 311-168 record. Key returners for the Spartans will be seniors Ella Ferguson (G/F) and Abi Jennings (G/F) and sophomore Rivers Lemke (G). Fergusen and Lemke were all-league last season. Said Dickson: “We are young with very little depth, but will work hard and be very competitive.”
Buckeye Division coaches have tabbed the Spartans the team to beat and with good reason. The dean of the SWBL, Waynesville head coach Tim Gabbard owns a career record of 648-353 in 44 years and returns a loaded line-up from last year’s 20-5 squad. Seniors Emme Greely (post) and Caroline Stupp (guard); juniors Tori See (post) and Avery Whitaker (wing); and sophomores Katie Berrey (guard) and Maggie Stephenson (guard) create a formidable nucleus. Berrey (13.3 ppg, 2.7 apg), Stephenson (9.4 ppg, 3.6 apg), Greely (8.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and See (7.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg) were all-league. Said Gabbard: “We have a veteran team that should be fighting for a league trophy and hopefully a deep tourney run.”