Eagles expect rotating lineup
New Albany High School girls tennis players can't say tryouts were boring.
Coach Marc Thomas consistently kept the Eagles on their toes leading up to their Aug. 14 opener against Hudson, rotating all players between singles and doubles as he samples several possible lineup combinations.
If players were wracking their brains trying to figure out where they'd land, that was fine with Thomas, because he was doing the same thing.
"These girls are so competitive," said Thomas, who is in his third season. "My goal is to get the tryouts over with as quick as possible. Anytime we play each other, it's tough because it's such a competitive situation. The girls will have to play both (singles and doubles). That's the reality of it. We'll have to rely on different things against different schools. Every lineup will be legitimate, but we're still figuring it out. It's a process."
Junior Jane Haffer had the inside track on playing first singles entering the week, followed by sophomore Francesca DiLorenzo, junior Sydney Setnar and seniors Alyssa Seneviratne and Carol Vitellas.
DiLorenzo teamed with her older sister, 2013 graduate Cristina DiLorenzo, to win last year's Division I state doubles championship. The sisters combined to lose just one set last year, to Dublin Jerome's Emma and Sarah Stein in a district final, but avenged that in the state final with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 win.
Cristina DiLorenzo, who now is playing at Xavier, was New Albany's only loss to graduation. But seniors Priyal Reddy and Emily Zhong also opted not to play this year.
"It was weird not seeing some regular faces, but we'll just come together as the team we are," Setnar said. "There are really no specifics right now. In practice, everybody has been playing everybody. Everyone is playing doubles and singles, so we don't know what our spot is or if we have a specific spot to play."
Setnar played first doubles with Haffer last year during the regular season.
Underclassmen expected to contribute include sophomore Christina Vitellas and freshmen Alex Cash and Tara Selby.
"We're obviously a very young team, but everyone is ready to get out there and go, especially the freshmen," Haffer said. "Skill level and experience-wise, we're right there. Anyone can fill any of these spots. Anyone is capable and has the ability to do so."
New Albany was 21-2 overall a year ago and had 82 points and a 7-0 record in the OCC-Capital Division to win the league title ahead of runner-up Olentangy (62, 6-1). It was the Eagles' second consecutive unbeaten OCC-Capital championship and seventh title in eight years.
The Eagles advanced to the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association district final, losing 3-1 to eventual state champion Jerome.
If New Albany wins another OCC-Capital title, it will have the chance to call itself the overall OCC champion.
Unlike in the past when duals and the league tournament were combined to determine which school scored the most league points, this year's OCC-Capital title will be earned by the team with the best dual record. The first-place teams in each of the four OCC divisions will play each other Sept. 21 at a site to be announced to determine the overall league champion.
Second-place teams from each division also will play each other, and so on.
"We have to win our way there, though," Thomas said. "This team has the potential to be just as good (as 2012), but we have to make sure we're coming together as a team and continuously getting better. If we continue to get better, we'll have a lot of opportunities this year, and that's all you can ask for."