Hilliard Darby High School boys tennis coach Scott Nickel is hoping that the rigors of the OCC-Cardinal Division tournament help his team prepare for the postseason.
The Panthers compete in the Division I sectional tournament Thursday, May 16, and Saturday, May 18, at Davidson. The top four finishers in singles and doubles will advance to the district tournament May 24 and 25 at Davidson.
"The OCC tournament is a culminating point of the season," Nickel said. "It's when we want to be at our best and finishing as high in the league standings as possible.
"Our players take on players from four of the top-10 ranked teams in central Ohio in Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto, Worthington Kilbourne and Westerville South in a high-pressure and high-profile event. The hope is that we come out of the OCC (tournament) even sharper and ready to go for sectional."
Darby went 3-4 in OCC-Cardinal dual matches and concluded the league tournament May 11 at home with 32 points to place fifth, behind Jerome (75, 7-0), Scioto (57, 5-2), Kilbourne (55, 5-2) and Westerville South (54, 5-2) and ahead of Westerville North (26, 2-5), Bradley (6, 1-6) and Westerville Central (1, 0-7).
At sectional, the doubles team of senior Kyle Chilcote and junior C.J. Martin is seeded third and has a first-round bye. The duo will play Westerville South's Ian Liao and Ben Potts or Dublin Coffman's Connor Geelan or Ken Yoshino in the second round.
The doubles team of senior E.J. Graf and freshman David Kim faces Bradley senior Prit Patel and junior Parker Holland in the first round.
In singles, senior Harsha Ponna faces Marysville's Gavin Bushong in the first round, junior Siddartha Revur plays Coffman's Rohit Joshi n the first round and senior Kaleb Sislowski plays Marysville's Jacob Bell in a play-in match.
"Overall, I like our draw, especially in doubles," Nickel said. "C.J. and Kyle -- our No. 1 and 2 singles players -- are joining forces to play doubles and are third-seeded. I believe they have a great shot to qualify for district if they play to their capabilities.
"E.J. and David have been playing really well together and I like their chances in advancing into the later rounds, and I won't count out our singles players, as I know Sid, Harsha and Kaleb will be ready to go."
Wildcats tie for 2nd in OCC-Central
Davidson finished fourth or better on all three singles courts in the OCC-Central tournament May 11 at Upper Arlington.
Freshman Thomas Porter placed second in first singles, losing to UA's Brandon Griffin 6-1, 6-1 in the final. Senior Joe Justus placed third at second singles after defeating Olentangy Liberty's Andrew Topinka 8-4 in the third-place match, and senior Michael Porter finished fourth, losing to Liberty's Kyle Flahive 8-4 in the third-place match.
Davidson, which went 5-2 in OCC-Central dual matches, finished the league tournament with 63 points to tie Coffman (6-1) for second, behind UA (81, 7-0) and ahead of Liberty (42, 3-4), Thomas Worthington (36, 3-4), Marysville (33, 3-4) , Central Crossing (12, 1-6) and Westland (0, 0-7).
The Wildcats are competing in their home sectional. Justus and Michael Porter are seeded second in doubles and Thomas Porter is the fourth seed in singles.
Justus and Michael Porter have a first-round bye and will face Gahanna's Zach Holm and Stefn Sandberg or Olentangy Orange's Kaleb Kok and Stephen Spezzano in the second round. Thomas Porter plays Orange's Sahil Shah in the first round.
Also in the first round in singles, senior Nick Armstrong plays Delaware's John Homan and senior Matt Heinz faces Westerville South's Grant Augenstein. In doubles, senior Kevin Qian and freshman Owen Hafler have a first-round bye and will play Gahanna's Chris Kusovski and John Spain in the second round.
"This might be the toughest sectional we have had in a while because of the quality teams we have," coach Steve De Dent said. "That can be a good thing, because if we get anyone out to district, they should be well-prepared."
Bradley prepares for Davidson sectional
Bradley also will be competing in the Division I sectional at Davidson
"It's nice to get the kids in a whole-day tournament (like the OCC-Cardinal tournament) so they can get a feel for sectional," coach Ben Lilly said. "Getting them used to playing three matches in a day helps them prepare for the long day (at sectional)."
In first-round singles matches at sectional, senior Nazim Hussein plays Big Walnut's Jesse Rines, senior Will Kolenky faces Big Walnut's Isaiah Kolb and freshman Sai Pandranji plays second-seeded Brian Do of Coffman.
In doubles, Holland and Patel play Graf and Kim of Darby in the first round and junior Jim Gaydos and freshman Doug Knecht face Delaware's Thomas Lenhart and Jason Watkins in the opening round.
"I'm pretty happy with our draw," Lilly said. "All of our players have a chance to win in the first round and build from there."