Hilliard Darby High School boys tennis coach Scott Nickel doesn't have to watch Steven Lewis' matches to know how well he is doing. All he has to do is time them.

Hilliard Darby High School boys tennis coach Scott Nickel doesn't have to watch Steven Lewis' matches to know how well he is doing. All he has to do is time them.

The longer Lewis is on the court at third singles, the better his chances are of winning. Largely because of outlasting opponents, the senior was 7-2 after losing to Gahanna's Scott Eisen 7-5, 6-1 in a 5-0 team loss April 24.

"Steven is winning because he's such a competitor," Nickel said. "He's going to stay out there and trade shots back and forth as long as it takes to hit one home for the Panthers.

"In tennis in general, but in third singles in particular, you need to have consistency. At first singles the guys look to finish points early on, but at third singles points tend to be a little more drawn out. You really have to work to force an error on the opponent."

After starting 0-2, Darby won five of its next seven, enabling it to surpass last year's overall win total (4-10).

Losses to defending OCC-Ohio Division champion Lancaster 4-1 on April 17 and Gahanna may have cost Darby a chance for the league championship. Nickel said he wants to see his team close out the OCC schedule strongly before entering the league tournament May 10.

The Panthers play host to Westland today and visit Groveport on Tuesday.

"This is a critical time for us," Nickel said. "Our backs are against the wall and we need to come out and do well. But at the same time, I'd like to stress we need to focus on ourselves and our potential and not worry about wins and losses. If we do the things we are supposed to do, we're going to do fine."

After struggling to stay at the .500 mark playing mostly second singles as a junior, Lewis worked on his mental game and fine-tuned the other parts of his game.

"I've been working a lot on getting that first serve in and the basics of tennis, but the biggest area I've improved in is staying strong and staying positive," Lewis said. "You have to play smart and stay positive. The past couple of years I've let negative thoughts dictate my game and I wasn't able to pull through some matches."

After getting burned out on baseball, Lewis started playing tennis when he was in ninth grade.

"Maybe I don't have the greatest tennis skills in the world. I've never had a professional coach, but I've been able to hang around the court and pick up things the best that I can," Lewis said. "The thing I enjoy the most about tennis is that it's a mental and physical game."

After losing to Wellington's Alex Yadegari 6-1, 6-0 in a 5-0 team loss April 3, Lewis won his next five. He had his team's only wins in 4-1 losses to Reynoldsburg on April 1 and Lancaster.

"He's a real leader for the rest of the team," Nickel said.

"He can do no wrong. He gets it done on and off the court. His combination of consistency and quickness makes for a winning recipe. He's become a thinking man's tennis player."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Darby and Davidson boys tennis teams:

DARBY

April 14 -- Defeated Dublin Scioto 3-2

*April 17 -- Lost to Lancaster 4-1

April 22 -- Def. Central Crossing 5-0

*April 24 -- Lost to Gahanna 5-0

Last Monday -- Lost to Westerville South 3-2

Last Tuesday -- Played Pickerington Central

*Today -- Home vs. Westland

*Tuesday -- At Groveport

Of note: The Panthers were 5-5 overall before last Tuesday and are 1-2 in the OCC-Ohio.

*OCC-Ohio match

DAVIDSON

April 14 -- Def. St. Charles 5-0

April 15 -- Def. DeSales 4-1

*April 17 -- Def. Reynoldsburg 5-0

April 18 -- Lost to Shaker Heights 4-1

April 19 -- Tied Worthington Kilbourne for second (22) behind New Albany (31) in Davidson Doubles Classic

April 22 -- Def. Pickerington North 5-0

April 23 -- Def. Olentangy Liberty 4-1

*April 24 -- Def. Dublin Coffman 4-1

Last Saturday -- Finished eighth (5) behind champion Kilbourne (13) in Worthington Cup

Last Monday -- Lost to Kilbourne 4-1

Last Wednesday -- Played Watterson

*Today -- At Westerville North

Friday -- At New Albany

Monday -- Home vs. Thomas Worthington

*Tuesday -- Home vs. Grove City

Wednesday -- At Scioto

Of note: The Wildcats were 8-4 overall before last Wednesday and are 2-1 in the OCC-Buckeye.

*OCC-Buckeye match