Susie Miller expected success when she took over as the Northview boys tennis coach four years ago.
Her first objective was to find a core group of underclassmen to build upon. David Kallile, Jake Butcher, Kyle Trumbull and Jason Gaynor represented a strong freshman class to lean on. However, Miller could not anticipate just how quickly the foursome would impact the program.
Heading into the Northern Lakes League tournament today at Bowling Green State University, Northview is positioned to claim an unprecedented fourth straight league championship.
"It was a definite surprise," Miller said of the Wildcats' quick rise to the top in the NLL. "I had some strong players who were juniors and seniors and I think the older players took those guys [freshmen] in and it made us a strong team. After their freshman year, I think the expectations changed and they've lived up to those expectations."
The Wildcats, who finished the regular season 6-1 in the NLL, have dominated the league the past four seasons. Their head-to-head record against NLL teams is 26-2 since Miller took over. They lost one league match in her first season and suffered a setback earlier this year to Southview, which ended a two-year run of 14 consecutive victories over NLL opponents.
"After the loss they've been determined to win league now," Miller said.
"We really hope we will win the NLL one more time so we can say we won it four years in a row," said Kallile, the team's No. 1 singles player with a career record of 34-2 in singles. "Then again, if we lose, we have nothing to be ashamed of. I think we have the best chance of any team to win. We just have to do our own part."
Butcher, the No. 2 singles player, also had high expectations before closing out the regular season yesterday with a win over Springfield.
"Ever since our sophomore year after we'd won it [league] two years in a row we knew we were expected to win it all," said Butcher, whose career record against NLL competition is also 35-1. "If we don't win, it will be really disappointing."
Setbacks for the Wildcats have been minimal since Miller arrived.
Trumbull - the No. 3 singles player - is 33-3 for his career in NLL play while Gaynor, who returned to Northview this year after moving to Florida with his family for his junior year, has produced a 23-4 record.
"They've set the bar at Northview to motivate others to play tennis," Miller said. "Some of the younger players see what can happen when you work hard on your game in the offseason."
Right from the start, Kallile, Butcher, Trumbull and Gaynor showed a level of talent and commitment that separated them from others their age, according to Miller. They arrived as freshmen ready to play and have competed in tennis year-round ever since. They've practiced together and have played in offseason tournaments to help hone their skills.
"We take it upon ourselves to go out and try to beat each other in order to keep getting better," Butcher said.
Kallile, who is heading to Ohio State on an academic scholarship, is the league's defending No. 1 singles champion. He won the No. 3 singles title as a freshman, then the No. 2 singles title as a sophomore.
Butcher, who will attend the University of Cincinnati, is also a defending league champion. He won the No. 2 singles title last spring after earning league doubles titles the previous two years.
Gaynor, who was a league doubles champion as a freshman and sophomore, missed the camaraderie playing alongside his Northview teammates last year when he attended school in Florida. He made a decision at the beginning of his senior year to return to northwest Ohio to graduate from Northview and finish his high school tennis career as a Wildcat.
"I called them every day [after a match] last year," said Gaynor, who will continue his education at Florida Atlantic in the fall. "It's really been a whole lot of fun playing on this team."
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