Opponents would like nothing more than to beat the Dublin Jerome High School boys tennis team.
At least, that's what second-year coach Tyler Stephen thinks, and he wouldn't want it any other way.
Last season, the Celtics finished 16-2 overall and won the OCC-Cardinal Division championship, going 7-0 in league duals and finishing the league tournament with 86 points to finish well ahead of runner-up Scioto (56, 6-1).
Westerville Central (51, 5-2) placed third, followed by Olentangy Liberty (49, 4-3), Westerville South (36, 3-4), Westerville North (22, 2-5), Olentangy (14, 1-6) and Marysville (9, 0-7).
Jerome opened with a 3-2 win over Coffman on April 3. The Shamrocks handed the Celtics one of their losses a year ago, 4-1.
"We're always going to have targets on our backs because it's something we've earned for being so successful over the past several years," Stephen said. "We're always going to get everyone's best shot because we're a team that everyone wants to beat, and that's something we should relish instead of shying away from it."
The Celtics have three returnees in senior Kent Seitz and juniors Patrick Liu and Tyler Stohr. Also on the team are junior Jack Bennett, sophomore Pranav Kaza and freshmen Jason Liu, Nikil Rangaswamy, Adam Seitz and Chris Zhu.
The lineup against Coffman consisted of Kent Seitz at first singles, Adam Seitz at second singles, Rangaswamy at third singles, Kaza and Patrick Liu at first doubles and Bennett and Stohr at second doubles.
"We lost some very key players who will be missed, but we have some returning guys and some fresh faces, and they're working hard to try to continue our team's tradition of winning," Stephen said.
Jerome opened OCC-Cardinal play April 9 against Hilliard Bradley. As part of OCC realignment last summer, Liberty and Marysville moved to the OCC-Central and were replaced by Hilliard Darby and Worthington Kilbourne and Olentangy moved to the OCC-Capital and was replaced by Bradley.
"Defending our OCC championship is our main priority," Stephen said. "Worthington Kilbourne's a very strong team with a great tradition, so it won't be easy."
Jerome was represented in the Division I state tournament last year at Ohio State by 2012 graduates Jared Judson and Frank Kuo, who lost in the first round in doubles. The duo reached state by going 2-2 in the district tournament at Hilliard Davidson and securing the fourth and final qualifying berth.
Also competing at district last year were Seitz, who won his opening match before losing in the second round, and the doubles team of Liu and Kevin Lin, which lost in the first round.
Lin did not return for his senior year.
Irish counting on newcomers
Scioto returns three players from last season, when it finished 16-5 overall and placed second in the OCC-Cardinal, in senior Hemant Reddy and juniors Sean Ferguson and Arjun Venkataraman.
Also on the team are juniors Vijay Singaraju, Babur Umarov and Burkhon Yusupov, sophomores Harshil Amin and Krish Nair and freshman Rohith Koneru.
The Irish opened April 3 with a 5-0 win over Liberty. Their lineup consisted of Ferguson at first singles, Koneru at second singles, Venkataraman at third singles, Singaraju and Yusupov at first doubles and Umarov and Amin at second doubles.
"We will be competitive on certain courts, but we don't have any varsity experience on other courts," 18th-year coach Mike Wrigley said. "How far our inexperienced players are able to come will determine how successful we are."
Ferguson was Scioto's only Division I district qualifier last season. He went 4-1 and placed second in a sectional at Davidson to qualify for district, where he won his first match before losing in the second round.
"I'm not worried about our win-loss record this season because I just want us to be consistent," Wrigley said. "We're probably going to be in the middle of the pack in the OCC, but we do have some individuals who can challenge for the championship on their courts in the OCC tournament, so we may finish in the upper half again."
Scioto opened OCC-Cardinal play April 9 at Westerville Central.
Shamrocks hope to be OCC contender
Coffman returns six players from a year ago, when finished 11-4 overall and placed second in the OCC-Central.
The returnees are seniors Jack Buchan, Leon Cai and Ken Yoshino, junior Rohit Joshi and sophomores Brian Do and Vishesh Javangula. Also on the team are senior Connor Geelan, juniors Rohit Joshi and Tsuyoshi Oda and sophomore Robbie Markus.
Coffman opened April 1 with a 5-0 win over Hilliard Bradley. Then, after its loss to Jerome, it lost to New Albany 5-0 on April 4.
In all three matches, the Shamrocks' lineup consisted of Buchan at first singles, Cai at second singles, Joshi at third singles, Do and Javangula at first doubles and Geelan and Yoshino at second doubles.
Buchan also played first singles last season.
"I'm really excited about the team we have," first-year coach Ken Berlin said. "We're getting good leadership from our three seniors, and we have a lot of versatile players who can play singles and doubles equally well."
Last year, Coffman went 6-1 in the OCC-Central and concluded the league tournament with 54 points to finish behind Upper Arlington (77, 7-0) and ahead of Davidson (44, 5-2), Kilbourne (34, 4-3), Thomas Worthington (27, 3-4), Darby (20, 2-5), Westland (9, 1-6) and Central Crossing (4, 0-7).
Darby and Kilbourne have moved to the OCC-Cardinal and were replaced by Liberty and Marysville.
Coffman opened OCC-Central play April 9 against Davidson.
Qualifying for the Division I state tournament last year were Buchan and Cai in doubles and 2012 graduate Hiromi Nakayama in singles.
At state, Buchan and Cai beat Copley's Andrew Ong and Jared Pennington 6-4, 6-4 in the first round before losing to Cincinnati Sycamore's Yuri Karev and Nakul Narendran 6-3, 7-5 in the second round.
Making his fourth state appearance in singles, Nakayama lost to Cleveland St. Ignatius' Nathan Griffin 6-3, 6-3 in the first round.
Buchan and Cai qualified for state by going 3-1 and placing third at district. Nakayama also went 3-1 and placed third at district, where the top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to state.
Do and Joshi also qualified for district in doubles but lost in the first round.
"We'd love to fight and compete for our league title," Berlin said. "Upper Arlington is the top team in the area, but we're going to try to give them all they can handle."