It seemed likely that seniors Lauren Bellinger and Sarah Stein of the Dublin Jerome High School girls tennis team would play doubles together this postseason after combining to win Division I sectional, district and state titles last year and finishing second at state in 2010.
However, Bellinger and Stein opted to pursue new challenges in the Division I sectional tournament Thursday, Oct. 4, and Saturday, Oct. 6, at Hilliard Davidson.
Bellinger will play singles and is seeded first in the Davidson sectional, with Hilliard Bradley's Lauren Thai (second), Bradley's Ashley Thai (third) and teammate Rhiannon James (fourth) rounding out the top four seeds.
Stein will be playing doubles with her younger sister, Emma.
The duo is seeded first, with teammates Ellee Bullock and Caitlyn Merzbacher (second), Davidson sisters Laura Hagy and Natalie Hagy (third) and Davidson's Chloe Shevlin and Ella Wilson (fourth) rounding out the top four seeds.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles from each of the four sectional sites -- the others are Upper Arlington, Pickerington Central and Reynoldsburg -- advance to the district tournament Oct. 12 and 13 at Davidson.
"A lot of people thought Lauren and Sarah would try to defend their state title, but they have already proven themselves as a doubles team and they are going after new goals this year," coach Tyler Stephen said.
"Lauren obviously is a very talented singles player and she is capable of going very deep in the tournament this year. Sarah is looking forward to playing doubles with her little sister because that opportunity may never come for them again. Most people don't know that Emma is an unbelievable doubles player and I think the Steins will be very successful in the tournament, too."
Sophia Gomez also will compete in singles at sectional. She likely will have to defeat Ashley Thai to advance to district.
Last year in the Davidson sectional, Bellinger and Sarah Stein went 4-0 to capture the doubles title, Emma Stein went 5-0 to place first in singles, Merzbacher went 3-1 and placed third in singles and James went 3-2 and placed fourth in singles.
"Hilliard Bradley's a good team and Hilliard Davidson's also got some good players, but after those two teams there's a big drop off in talent for the rest of the teams that will compete in our sectional," Stephen said.
"All of our seeded players should get through to district. Sophia has a shot, too, because she's capable of playing great tennis and Ashley Thai is tough but can be streaky."
Jerome competed in the OCC-Cardinal Division tournament Sept. 29 at Bradley, securing its ninth league title in as many years. The Celtics finished with 72 points and had a 7-0 record in league matches. Bradley (55, 6-1) finished second.
Six Jerome players went 3-0 in the OCC-Cardinal tournament to place first in Sarah Stein (second singles), Merzbacher (third singles), Bullock and James (first doubles) and Gomez and Maddy Easdale (second doubles).
Bellinger (first singles) went 2-1 and finished second.
"The highlight was winning the OCC as a team because we all worked for this," said Sarah Stein, who defeated Ashley Thai 6-2, 7-6 in the final at second singles. "This was my last OCC tournament, so it was nice to win my fourth OCC title to finish with a bang. Now it's going to be a fun experience to play in the sectional with my sister."
Irish fare well in league tourney
Scioto lost to Worthington Kilbourne 4-1 on Oct. 1 and had to settle for fourth place (47, 4-3) in the final OCC-Cardinal standings.
Kilbourne (50, 5-2) placed third.
Rounding out the league were Darby (22, 2-5), Westerville Central (17, 1-6), Westerville South (13, 1-6) and Westerville North (10, 2-5).
Scioto sisters Rathisha and Cynthia Pathmathasan went 2-1 and placed second at second doubles in the league tournament. Madha Choudhary and Karishma Patel (first doubles) and Susma Rai (third singles) each went 2-1 and placed third, and Prachi Bansal (first singles) and Jessica Xu (second singles) each went 1-2 and placed fourth.
"This was one of those days where there were no upsets and we played about as well as we could have played, especially at second doubles," coach Mike Wrigley said. "First doubles and No. 3 singles were good highlights for us, too."
The Irish will compete in the Division I sectional at UA, where none of their players are seeded.
Bansal, Rai and Xu will play singles and Choudhary and Patel and the Pathmathasan sisters will play doubles.
"Upper Arlington and Olentangy Liberty are both at our sectional, so there are no vulnerable seeds," Wrigley said.
"But our goal from the beginning of the season was to play well in dual matches and in our league tournament, so I'd say we're having a good season."