The spring of 2010 could be when Gahanna Lincoln High School tennis joins the 'big boys' of central Ohio.

The spring of 2010 could be when Gahanna Lincoln High School tennis joins the 'big boys' of central Ohio.

Coming off a year where the program captured its first OCC title in 27 years, the Lions roster is poised to realistically compete with the area's traditionally elite tennis schools.

"We're not looking past OCCs," senior captain Weston Hebert said. "But we're looking beyond it in the sense we have the ability to go even further."

Along with repeating as OCC-Ohio Division champions, Gahanna is looking to make a deep run in the OTCA team tournament and establish itself as a major player in the area. Success in those areas will mean wins over programs like Dublin Jerome, UA and New Albany.

"I think we have the potential to get up there and compete with those teams," said first-year coach Chris Schwinnen, who takes over after serving as Mike O'Callaghan's assistant last season. "With our (singles players) and first doubles team I think we can play with anybody."

Gahanna returns it top two singles players from last year, junior Jesse Shivener and sophomore Stephen Cheng. Shivener was 14-7 on the first court in '09, while Cheng finished 17-1 overall in singles play. Its No. 1 doubles team of Hebert and Dan Emoff returns as one of the more experienced teams in the OCC.

The addition of freshman Canyon Teague, one of the region's top under-14 players, means Cheng likely slides down to third singles. Teague and Shivener are expected to battle for the top singles spot, meaning regardless of the order, Gahanna should be among the area's strongest on the second and third courts. Toss in the experience of Hebert and Emoff and the Lions should find the necessary three points against almost any opponent.

"Not to take anything away from (our No. 1), but 2, 3 and first doubles are probably going to be where we come away with wins," Schwinnen said.

The second doubles court still is undecided. Sophomore Sam Raybuck has the inside track for one of the spots, joined by Alex Gavrilov, Demetrius Stevenson or Sam Sobul.

"That might be a position that changes throughout the year," Schwinnen said.

Last season, the Lions were 13-4 overall and 7-0 in league play. Gahanna won 30 of a possible 35 courts during the regular season.

"The first goal is the league," Schwinnen said. "That's were we want to go first. That said, the OCC and OTCA go hand-in-hand since they're both going on all year."

Gahanna's draw for the team tournament means a likely opening match against Westerville South, followed by either Dublin Jerome or Dublin Coffman. If Gahanna gets to that point, it should find itself up against an elite program with the opportunity to make a name for itself.

"We have a strong chance to compete with all those teams," Hebert said.

"I think Gahanna is definitely coming across people's minds."

At a glance

•Coach: Chris Schwinnen, first season

•Opener: Saturday Home vs. Athens

•Key players: Stephen Cheng, Weston Hebert and Jesse Shivener.

SCHEDULE

April 3 vs. Athens

April 7 at Upper Arlington 'B'

*April 13 vs. Pickerington Central

*April 15 at Newark

April 16 at Hilliard Bradley

April 17 vs. Ashland

*April 20 at Pickerington North

*April 22 vs. Grove City

*April 23 vs. Lancaster

April 24 at Athens

*April 27 at Reynoldsburg

April 28 vs. Granville

*May 4 vs. Groveport

May 5 vs. Upper Arlington

May 6 at St. Charles

May 10 vs. Olentangy

May 12 at Bishop Hartley

*OCC-Ohio match