RIPLEY – It's a new region for Ripley High School's tennis teams in 2013.
Which perhaps means seeing more qualifiers to the State Tournament than in years past.
"I think they broke up the strongest region in the state," veteran head coach Greg Varney said.
Ripley moves from the powerful Region 4, which featured the bulk of the state's top Class AAA programs to a still very competitive Region 3. Besides Ripley, Region 3 will consist of Beckley, Capital, GW, Greenbrier East, Oak Hill, Princeton, Riverside, Shady Spring and South Charleston.
On the Lady Viking side of the net, Varney welcomes back senior Emily Munson, who last year as a junior broke a Ripley High dry spell by qualifying for the State Tournament in Charleston. She became the first Ripley tennis player to compete in the capital city since 2003.
"I think she is one of the top five girls in the state," Varney said. "She's the hardest working player (boy or girl) I've ever coached. She's really gotten better (from last season). I look for her to win this year at the State Tournament. How far she goes is up to her. She's a future college player."
Sophomore Meghan Frampton returns for the Lady Vikings. Last season she teamed with Munson in doubles.
Sophomores Tyler Barickman and Arin Shatto, who were varsity starters last season in both singles and doubles, also return.
Senior Kaitlin White's is back on the court and that has Varney excited. "She was my No. 1 in middle school but never played varsity. She worked all last summer. She is going to be a major help to us," Varney said. "She's the missing piece of the puzzle that we needed going into a new region and picking her up is a big deal."
Varney said a "big surprise" has been freshman Brooke King. "She was my No. 1 player off the middle school. In our challenges, she's looked really good and really strong."
The Lady Viking squad also includes sophomores Kristin Fike and Caleigh Neal along with ninth graders Olivia Poe and Caisey Adcock.
"I feel like on the girls side we should be extremely successful," Varney said.
Competition has been the key word in the preseason for his Viking boys team.
"Anybody who played for us last year has got to fight for playing time," Varney said. "I think our boys have a shot at a .500 record or better."
Senior Baylee VanKirk returns after playing at No. 1 singles a year ago.
Junior Logan Reynolds is also back. "He could be our No. 1 or No. 2. He's really improved and could be a great tennis player," Varney said. "He's really caught my eye. He hits the ball extremely long, which in tennis is a big deal."
Page 2 of 2 - There are several newcomers, including senior Casey Smith. "He was my No. 1 in middle school but hasn't played varsity. He is a backboard. He gets the ball back, he's going to play for us."
Another senior, Jacob Haynes, is out for the first time. "He reminds me of Evan Koontz from last year," Varney said. "He just has to learn to play. He is so quick and athletic."
Senior Jordan Ullom will also see action according to Varney. "He's been a nice surprise."
Other seniors out are Tyler Bailey and Robert Celerio, a foreign exchange student from Mexico. The roster also includes junior Parker Lively and sophomore Tristin Davis.
Freshmen on the roster are J.J. Mahan, Chance Ranson and Derrick Hill. "I look for Mahan to play some. He is strong and hits the ball hard. Hill could be in our top four and I think Ranson will help us down the road," Varney said.
Ripley is slated to open the season at Parkersburg South, Wednesday March 20.