As Brian Ash prepared for his first season as coach of the Marysville High School boys tennis team, he expected the coaching staff to begin and end with him. Last season, the numbers diminished because of a pay-to-participate fee of more than $200.

As Brian Ash prepared for his first season as coach of the Marysville High School boys tennis team, he expected the coaching staff to begin and end with him. Last season, the numbers diminished because of a pay-to-participate fee of more than $200.

But 17 players were in attendance the first day of practice March 9.

"We went ahead and put a posting for an assistant coach," said Ash, whose team will open Thursday at Olentangy Liberty.

He already has found an assistant in John Merriman, who was the head coach the last two years with Ash as his assistant.

"It's not a demotion," Merriman said, laughing. "We didn't think we'd have as many playing and Brian thought he'd be able to handle it himself. When it got to 17 he needed an assistant, and since I worked with Brian before it was a role I wanted to assume."

Merriman also has been an assistant under girls coach Stephanie Schupp for the last 10 seasons.

"(Ash is) very enthusiastic and has the boys working very hard," Merriman said. "He's very structured in what he's doing, and Brian brings some youth so he can go out there and hit with the kids."

Ash played tennis at Lorain Admiral King before graduating in 1996. He then played four years at Muskingum and joined the Marysville boys program as an assistant in 2007.

Marysville went 6-12 each of the last two seasons.

Last year the Monarchs finished fourth in the OCC-Central Division at 2-3 with 20 points behind Thomas Worthington (5-0, 57), Pickerington North (4-1, 52) and Delaware (3-2, 24) and ahead of Westerville Central (1-4, 18) and Central Crossing (0-5, 4). Drew Lykins was third at second singles at the league tournament.

Lykins, a senior, again play second singles. Senior Jordan McLellen, an exchange student from Scotland, will play first singles, taking over for graduate Tim Xie.

"Jordan is consistent and has heavy, fast-paced shots," Ash said.

"He's definitely more of a club player from his experience in Scotland. He's the best player I've seen on our team in a few years. He's going to rock a lot of teams and help us get a win at first singles."

"Drew has upped his consistency and is more aggressive on his kill shots. His volleying has improved and I have him trying to approach the net as much as possible."

Sophomore Jordan Cox is slated for third singles, with juniors Chady Chahine and Pat Sampsel at first doubles and senior Jarred Alloway and junior Matt Barnes at second singles.

"We're going to boast a strong singles setup and first doubles," Ash said. "We need to work on our mental toughness and maintain good demeanor all the way through the matches. We suffered in the past with kids' games breaking down in the middle of the match if something goes wrong."

At a glance

Below are recent results and coming schedules for the Marysville softball and boys and girls track & field teams:

SOFTBALL

Wednesday -- At Hilliard Davidson in opener

Thursday -- Home vs. Hilliard Darby

*Friday -- At Olentangy Liberty

TRACK & FIELD

*April 7 -- At Liberty in opener

*OCC-Cardinal contest