Experience should be a key factor this season for the Grove City High School boys tennis team.

Experience should be a key factor this season for the Grove City High School boys tennis team.

The Greyhounds return several upperclassmen, leaving eighth-year coach Ron Smith feeling optimistic entering the season-opening match on Friday, April 1, at home against Grandview.

"We're looking pretty good for this year," Smith said. "(We) have a lot of experience (on the team). We've had a really successful team the last few years."

Senior Joey Hemphill returns for his fourth season as the team's first singles player. Last season, Hemphill reached the district-qualifying round at the Division I sectional tournament before losing 7-6, 6-3 to Pickerington Central's Mason Roese.

"That's a match he should have won, so hopefully he can redeem himself this year," Smith said. "His goal is to get to the district (tournament)."

Junior Joey Swavely, who played doubles last season, is expected to be the team's second singles player. Senior Eli Monhemius, who played doubles and singles last season, is contending for the third singles position.

Seniors Colin Hopkins and Mitch Sturm return and are expected to handle first doubles. Seniors Collin Randall and Brian Havener should play second doubles.

Other players looking to contribute include seniors Adam Plank and Omer Pennington, junior Max Reed and sophomores Andrew Ray and Travis Wright.

"We've always had a fairly strong team," Smith said. "I have a good turnout. I have 27 kids between my j.v. and varsity this year."

Last season, Grove City finished 12-6 overall and fourth in the OCC-Ohio Division at 4-3 with 25 points, behind Gahanna (7-0, 67), Central (6-1, 58) and Pickerington North (5-2, 43) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (2-5, 24), Newark (2-5, 20), Lancaster (2-5, 17) and Groveport (0-7, 14).

"Our goal is just to win," Smith said. "We'll just see how the season progresses. They're in good shape starting off and we'll just see how much better we can get. Gahanna is tough. They'll be tough because they have a lot of returning players. Pickerington Central and Pickerington North are always tough. We'll just have to see what we can do."

•Dusty Rhodes is looking forward to his first season as coach of Central Crossing.

Rhodes, 31, replaces Kert Lanam, who stepped down following last season after four years as coach.

This is Rhodes' first head coaching job. Rhodes, an intervention specialist at Central Crossing, also serves as an assistant coach in boys golf and was an assistant coach for boys track and field the previous five seasons.

"I wanted some head coaching experience," he said. "There was a group of kids who kept coming up to me and said they wanted to play tennis and we didn't have a coach and I finally put my name in the hat. I've played tennis just recreationally."

The Comets open the season on Thursday, March 31, at Dublin Coffman.

Rhodes is looking to younger players to lead the way.

Junior Mack Bostard returns and is competing for the team's first singles position, while freshman Mikhail Yakhnitskiy is expected to play second singles and freshman Stephen Taylor will play either third singles or doubles, Rhodes said.

Senior Connor Ellis, who has been ruled academically ineligible and will miss the first six weeks of the season, could play third singles when he returns.

Rhodes expects Taylor and senior Tim Petit to eventually play first doubles, while junior Tim Campbell and freshman Mikey Massey could play second doubles.

Sophomore Usama Kahn returns and hopes to contribute. Seniors Troy Gottshall and Trevor Turner, junior Zachrey Wears and freshmen Aaron Hill and Troy Lare round out the team.

"We're young and they haven't seen a lot of organized tennis thus far in their lives, but we have a couple of players who look pretty promising," Rhodes said. "We have several freshmen who show some promise. They really seem to grasp the game."

Last season, Central Crossing finished 2-12-1 overall and eighth in the OCC-Central at 0-7 with eight points, behind Upper Arlington (7-0, 73), Coffman (6-1, 54), Thomas Worthington (5-2, 50), Worthington Kilbourne (4-3, 46), Hilliard Davidson (3-4, 40), Hilliard Darby (2-5, 37) and Westland (1-6, 15).

"This is really exciting to help these kids out and be a part of this," Rhodes said.