Jaguars focused on reaching potential
The Hilliard Bradley High School boys tennis team has a young group of players taking the court this spring.
The Jaguars, who have three seniors in William Kolenky (first singles), Nizam Hussein (second singles) and Prit Patel (doubles), were 1-3 overall after losing to Olentangy Liberty 5-0 on April 5 in the first round of the Division I Ohio Tennis Coaches Association tournament.
"We have a young group with only three seniors, but we have a lot of potential," fourth-year coach Ben Lilly said. "Right now, we are really focused on consistency."
Also back are juniors Parker Holland (third singles) and Jimmy Gaydos (singles/doubles).
"These five returning varsity players should help integrate the new players into our team," said Lilly, whose team opened OCC-Cardinal Division play April 9 against Dublin Jerome. "Because of the cold weather, we (hadn't) played a lot outside (before April 1), so in some cases we're still learning who will be playing on what courts."
Rounding out the team are junior Shumik Patel and freshmen Sudeep Haliharvi, Doug Knecht, Sai Pandraji and Zach Rice.
"Our team's strength has been our forehands with all of the players having developed very nice forehands," Lilly said. "We need to work on our backhands and serves. We'll be spending significant practice time to shore up those weaknesses."
Last season, Bradley finished 5-7 overall and went 2-5 in the OCC-Capital, finishing the league tournament with 25 points to finish fifth behind New Albany (77, 7-0), Olentangy Orange (45, 5-2), Big Walnut (44, 6-1) and Delaware (38, 4-3) and ahead of Watkins Memorial (23, 3-4), Mount Vernon (14, 1-6) and Franklin Heights (2, 0-7).
As part of OCC realignment last summer, Bradley moved to the OCC-Cardinal with Darby, Dublin Scioto, Jerome, Westerville Central, Westerville North, Westerville South and Worthington Kilbourne.
The Jaguars did not have any Division I district qualifiers last season.
Panthers return five letterwinners
Darby returns five letterwinners in seniors Kyle Chilcote (second singles), E.J. Graf (first doubles) and Harsha Ponna (first doubles) and juniors C.J. Martin (first singles) and Siddartha Revur (third singles).
The Panthers, who were 2-2 overall after losing to Upper Arlington B 4-1 on April 8, lost to Davidson 4-1 on April 3. The only court that they won against the Wildcats was first singles, where Martin beat Thomas Porter 6-7, 6-2, 6-1.
"After being out last season because of injury, C.J. Martin has come out with a huge win against Hilliard Davidson on court (No.) 1," 10th-year coach Scott Nickel said. "C.J. is back and our team, top to bottom, is much better for it.
"Our strength continues to be our singles players, who are battling against the top players in central Ohio and remain competitive. We hope to continue to win the matches we are supposed to win, but also surprise some folks with some upsets."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Faisal Baig, Wahhaj Faiz, Arqam Khan, Ilesh Patel, Kaleb Sislowski and Zack St. John, junior Sounak Roy, sophomore John Gehrt and freshman David Kim.
"Our doubles play has not always been as consistent as singles," Nickel said. "Granted, doubles has a different dynamic and that it can take a bit of time for players to develop their chemistry together, but it's a short season and we need to find a way to make it happen.
"I'm really looking forward to seeing who steps up. I'm counting on my seniors, like E.J. Graf and Harsha Ponna, as well as some of our new guys, including David Kim and John Gehrt, to contribute."
Last season, Darby finished 8-7 overall and placed sixth (20, 2-5) in the OCC-Central, behind UA (77, 7-0), Dublin Coffman (54, 6-1), Davidson (44, 5-2), Kilbourne (34, 4-3) and Thomas Worthington (27, 3-4) and ahead of Westland (9, 1-6) and Central Crossing (4, 0-7).
Darby, which did not have any Division I district qualifiers, has moved to the OCC-Cardinal. It opened league play April 9 against Westerville North.
Wildcats trying to find right mix
Davidson returns six letterwinners in seniors Nick Armstrong, Matthias Heinz, Joe Justus, Darin Myers and Michael Porter and junior Jason Ng.
Also on the team are sophomore Collin McCabe and freshmen Owen Hafler and Thomas Porter.
The Wildcats were 1-1 overall before playing Coffman in their OCC-Central opener April 9.
"Because of the weather, we have not been able to solidify our lineup," second-year coach Steve De Dent said. "Michael Porter, Joe Justus and Thomas Porter are playing for the three singles spots and it's been very close between the three.
"We do have a number of letterwinners returning and hopefully the experience they gained last year and over the last few years will help them prepare and understand the game better. It is a close-knit group and they have worked hard in the offseason to improve their games."
Thomas Porter played first singles against Darby and a 3-2 loss to Gahanna on April 4.
"We need to be more fundamental and take care of the little things and the big things will come," De Dent said. "We need to learn to handle the pressure of a match better. I thought last year we lost matches and courts due to the pressure of the situation more than from a lack of good tennis play. This is where good fundamentals will come into play. If you do the fundamentals right, the pressure should not get to the individual player because you played the point or game the correct way."
Last season, Davidson finished 7-10 overall, placed third (44, 5-2) in the OCC-Central and had one Division I district qualifier in 2012 graduate Spencer Walter, who lost to UA's Stu Little 6-0, 6-0 in the first round at district.
Marysville and Olentangy Liberty have replaced Darby and Kilbourne in the OCC- Central.