Arabians edge Raiders in battle of young tennis teams

Apr. 17—MIDDLETOWN — Tennis coaches Bryant Beard of Pendleton Heights and John Rhodes of Shenandoah were in remarkably similar circumstances as their teams took the court Wednesday afternoon. Both are building programs while navigating a season with no seniors on their respective rosters, and both were searching for that first team win of the 2024 season.

Only Beard could change the last similarity as his Arabians edged the Raiders 3-2, but both coaches walked away happy with what their young teams accomplished on the court.

"It was windy, for sure, although it calmed down later," Beard said. "The girls are going to be happy to get a win this evening. It's going to be a challenging year for the girls and for myself in different ways but rewarding at the same time."

It was also Beard's first win as girls coach after taking over the program this year.

Rhodes — who not only has no seniors on his team but fielded a lineup Wednesday of six sophomores and a freshman — said battling a team from a larger school like Pendleton Heights so closely can be a big boost to his team's confidence.

"He's got a new group as well as we're building. It was some good tennis," he said. "It was close. It wasn't a blow-out. We hung in there."

While the Arabians had already clinched the team win with a 3-1 lead, the final match to be completed — and the lone battle to go to a third set — proved to be the most compelling. It also included another first, this time for the Shenandoah side.

Raiders sophomore Audrey Marion battled back from a set down to force a third set, in which she was dominant, as she grabbed a 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 win over Sarah Ghosh. While all the players had to adjust to high winds throughout the matches, Marion was also able to figure out Ghosh's game as the match progressed.

"It's good. It feels great. I just wanted to get the ball back in play and earn every point," Marion said. "I was just adjusting to her game and the wind, and then I got it."

It was also Marion's first career varsity win for the Raiders. Still very much a developing player, she showed flashes of a strong serve that can be tough to return.

"She was really focused in tonight. She was taking every shot seriously and not listening to anyone outside," Rhodes said. "She's a little pistol. She's a small body, not a big structure in her upper body at all, but her serve is pretty good."

The match began with Shenandoah and PH splitting the doubles matches. Addie Aldredge and Esper Fernandez scored the first Arabians' point with a 6-3, 6-1 win at No. 1 doubles over Riley Pryor and Maddie VanBuskirk. But the Raiders drew even as Liz Rice and Rachel Walker rolled to a 6-1, 6-0 win at No. 2 doubles over Reegan Friedman and Maddie Dutton.

PH was able to get the clinching points from their No. 1 and No. 2 singles players.

In the No. 2 match, Bella Ritchey won the first five games of the match and breezed to a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Clara Mingle while Carla Fargas — a foreign exchange student from Spain — took care of business at No. 3 singles with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Sofia Gutierrez.

Those wins made for a boost of confidence for the team and much more enjoyable bus ride down U.S. 36 back to Pendleton.

"We can be cerebral in our approach, but at the end of the day, losing doesn't feel good," Beard said. "I'm sure it will get really rowdy on the bus, and we'll enjoy the celebration. And me being an alumni of Shenandoah, that always adds to it."

Contact Rob Hunt at

or 765-640-4886.