New Albany looks to defend league title
New Albany High School coach Marc Thomas had a strong rookie season leading the girls tennis team.
"We faced a lot of tough competition, but we continuously got better all season," he said.
Joining an already successful program, Thomas guided the Eagles to a 16-2 overall record and an OCC-Capital Division championship (68 points, 7-0). Olentangy Orange (55, 6-1) was second, followed by Hilliard Bradley (51, 5-2), Big Walnut (31, 4-3), Delaware (24, 3-4), Watkins Memorial (21, 2-5), Mount Vernon (12, 1-6) and Franklin Heights (6, 0-7).
The OCC realignment over the summer gave the OCC-Capital a slightly new look as Bradley and Olentangy switched spots, with Bradley going to the OCC-Cardinal.
"It starts in the conference and branches out," Thomas said. "We give all the respect to the rest of the league. We'll have to continue to play well to repeat."
With Kylie Hess being the only player lost to graduation, the Eagles look a lot like last year's powerhouse. Senior Cristina DiLorenzo returns to first singles and is joined on the squad by juniors Carol Vitellas, Priyal Reddy and Alyssa Seneviratne, sophomores Emily Zhong and Jane Haffer and freshman Francesca DiLorenzo.
"We have girls that are very dedicated," said Thomas, who recently was named New Albany boys tennis coach. "They work very hard. We'll have a lot of expectations. Last year was great. But we've got to continue building off what we did and get better."
The Eagles played host to Hudson on Aug. 15 to begin the season. They face Orange at home Tuesday, Aug. 21, in the OCC-Capital opener.
"We're going to have a stronger team than last year," Cristina DiLorenzo said. "Everyone's been playing in tournaments this summer and practicing a lot to prepare for the season. Hopefully that will pay off."
In last year's Division I sectional at Reynoldsburg, all of New Albany's entrants qualified for the district tournament. Cristina DiLorenzo beat Haffer in the final 6-0, 6-1 after beating Vitellas in a semifinal 6-2, 6-1. Hess and Seneviratne were sectional runners-up after falling to Bradley's Lauren Thai and Ashley Thai 6-1, 6-0 in the final, while Zhong and Reddy beat Gahanna's Rachel Zink and Emily Merickel 6-4, 6-3 in the third-place match.
"That's something that only a few teams across the state could do," Thomas said of advancing the entire contingent to district. "It's an incredible honor just to do that."
In the district tournament at Hilliard Davidson, DiLorenzo was the only Eagles player to advance, qualifying for the state tournament after defeating Dublin Coffman's Ashwatha Therappan 6-0, 6-1 in the third-place match.
DiLorenzo reached the second round at state at Elysium Tennis Center, defeating Toledo Central Catholic's Sandy Delp 6-2, 6-1 before losing to Westlake's Lauren Golick 6-3, 6-2.
"I want to make it to states again," DiLorenzo said. "I'd definitely like to go farther than last year."