The New Albany High School boys tennis team lost a two-time state champion, but coach Andy Sinclair has a feeling this team could be playing for another OTCA Division I district championship.

The New Albany High School boys tennis team lost a two-time state champion, but coach Andy Sinclair has a feeling this team could be playing for another OTCA Division I district championship.

"We're going to have one of the area's best teams again," said Sinclair, whose team opened last Monday with a 5-0 win over DeSales, played Hilliard Bradley last Wednesday and plays Watkins Memorial on Wednesday. "I really look for our main competition to come from Upper Arlington and I think the Olentangy Liberty team is very good. We have a huge neighborhood rivalry with Columbus Academy. We're gearing up."

Upper Arlington is one of the teams on New Albany's radar after they beat the Eagles 3-2 last season in an OTCA Division I district final.

Sinclair said a strong first singles player and a lot of depth behind him should put New Albany in position to make a return to that match.

Riyad Bennoui takes over for Peter Kobelt at first singles. Kobelt was the Division I state champion in singles last year and also won a doubles title with Skylar Engle the year before that.

Bennoui was a state qualifier in doubles in 2007 and 2008. He was 21-3 last year. His only losses were in doubles to Worthington Kilbourne's Kevin Metka and Jonny Price, who won the state championship last year, and Watterson brothers Chris and Phillip Diaz, the 2008 state champions.

New Albany has several players fighting for a position. That includes junior John Hendrix, who played at Columbus Academy last year and helped the Vikings win the OTCA Division II state title.

"John and the other kids on the team have been duking it out. It's very competitive. They're willing to work hard," Sinclair said.

New Albany's entire team reached the district tournament last year. They return district qualifiers in seniors Bennoui and Ryan McNutt (22-6) and juniors Sam Romanoff and Sean Yun (21-7). Sophomore Oliver Sybert (19-8) also made it to the district tournament.

The Eagles also return senior Nate Williams and sophomores Ameen Farwana, Julian Judge and Jordan Rabe.

Once again New Albany has loaded its schedule with some of the top teams in the state. The Eagles play at Shaker Heights against Hunting Valley University School on April 10 and they play at Cincinnati St. Xavier on April 27.

The Eagles were 14-2 in team matches last season, including 6-0 in the OCC-Capital Division.

They won the OCC-Capital with 71 points. Big Walnut (45) was second, followed by Delaware (33), Olentangy Orange (30), Mount Vernon (26), Watkins Memorial (13) and Franklin Heights (3).

"The fact that we have such a tough regular season is good for us," Bennoui said. "Even if you lose a couple of matches during the season, it's about the postseason. We get to play a lot of really good teams. We're excited to get a chance to test ourselves and see where we're at."

At a glance

•Coach: Andy Sinclair, fourth season

•Next game: Wednesday vs. Watkins Memorial

•Key players: Riyad Bennoui, John Hendrix, Ryan McNutt, Sam Romanoff, Oliver Sybert, Sean Yun

SCHEDULE

March 29 vs. DeSales

*March 31 at Hilliard Bradley

*April 6 vs. Watkins Memorial

April 10 at Shaker Heights vs. Shaker Heights and Hunting Valley University School

April 12 vs. Columbus Academy

*April 13 at Olentangy Orange

April 16 vs. Olentangy Liberty

April 17 at Hilliard Davidson

April 19 vs. Worthington Kilbourne

*April 20 vs. Franklin Heights

April 21 vs. Upper Arlington

*April 22 at Big Walnut

April 24 at Worthington Cup at Thomas Worthington

April 25 at Cincinnati St. Xavier at ATP Tennis Center

*April 27 vs. Delaware

April 28 vs. Watterson

April 30 vs. Dublin Coffman

*May 5 at Mount Vernon

May 7-8 at OCC-Capital championships at home

*OCC-Capital match