It has been a little bit harder for Riyad Bennoui and John Hendrix of the New Albany High School boys tennis team to get ready for the Division I state tennis tournament.

It has been a little bit harder for Riyad Bennoui and John Hendrix of the New Albany High School boys tennis team to get ready for the Division I state tennis tournament.

After finishing second in doubles at the district tournament last Saturday at Hilliard Davidson, the Eagles had an OTCA regional finals match last Tuesday.

The state tournament, which starts Friday and concludes on Saturday, had to take a back seat for a couple of days.

"All weekend I struggled looking at (making it to state)," said Bennoui last Saturday. "I didn't even think about district. What's been on my mind is that Upper Arlington match."

Bennoui and Hendrix haven't been doubles partners during OTCA play, but Friday the two look to give New Albany a representative in the state final for the fifth consecutive year.

Peter Kobelt, who graduated after winning the state championship in singles last year and in Division II doubles in 2007, was part of the previous four teams.

After a year absence, Bennoui is making his third appearance at state. Hendrix made it last year with Columbus Academy in Division II doubles.

"I fully expect if we get matched up with some of the teams out of the Cleveland area or Toledo we'll have a better chance of advancing," coach Andy Sinclair said. "Cincinnati and Dayton, those are the hotbeds right now. If they can win a game or two at the beginning and get their adrenaline going, they can roll up anyone."

Bennoui and Hendrix will open against Solon's Andrew Branstetter and Liam O'Brian.

Bennoui and Hendrix advanced to state by defeating Gahanna's Stephen Cheng and Canyon Teague 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 in a qualifying match last Friday. They ended up losing to Upper Arlington's Billy Weldon and Stu Little 6-1, 6-2 in the final.

"We played really great at points and we struggled at points," Bennoui said. "We had a very close three-set match with the team from Gahanna. We thought it was good to get a good scare like that. If we're not playing our best, we could lose at any point."

As for the rest of the team, last Saturday marked the end of the OHSAA-sanctioned season.

In singles, Sybert beat Hilliard Darby's Ryan Pelfrey 6-0, 6-1 before losing to Worthington Kilbourne's Kevin Metka 6-0, 6-1. Sean Yun fell to Thomas Worthington's Casey Cempre 6-1, 6-1 in his first match, and Sam Romanoff lost to Upper Arlington's Brandon Griffin 6-0, 6-0 in his opener.

In doubles, Ryan McNutt and Jordan Rabe eliminated Dublin Jerome's Ryuji Odajima and Frank Kuo 6-2, 6-2 before getting beat by Weldon and Little 6-1, 6-0.

"Every one of our guys in singles just ran into slightly better competition," Sinclair said. "They just ran into slightly better competition. They were going against guys that were playing first and second singles for other teams"