A recent New Albany High School girls tennis team practice didn't end at the Eagles' new 10-court facility.
Coach Marc Thomas led his players to the school stadium's track and had them run a mile, then sprint 200 meters before walking the final 200, and wrapped up the morning with a 300-meter run.
The message was clear.
"We're just working on getting better for the later-season matches. We want to last longer," sophomore Taylor Selby said. "I think as it got later in the season last year, we started to run out of energy so (Thomas) is trying to build us up. We're all learning to work together and support each other as we run, so that's a positive."
Indeed, endurance is the goal for the Eagles, who have won eight OCC-Capital Division championships in nine years -- the past three of which have been undefeated. But Thomas wants to see better postseason performances, such as the program's first appearance in the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I state tournament and the team's first state title since Cristina and Francesca DiLorenzo won the Division I doubles championship in 2012.
"We've always trained, always done the fitness side of it, but this year just to set the tone I really feel like we want to be a lot more physical. We want to be more aggressive," said Thomas, whose team was 17-1 overall and 7-0 in the OCC-Capital last year. "I hope the physical training provides the mental toughness as well."
Four returning letterwinners are led by senior Jane Haffer and sophomore Alex Cash, who teamed to win a sectional doubles championship, finished fourth at district and went 0-1 in the state tournament. Also back are Selby and classmate Christina Vitellas, and Thomas said freshman Makena Romagnano likely will compete on varsity.
Thomas did not name any players beyond those five, citing competitive tryouts throughout last week. The Eagles opened Aug. 13 at Gahanna.
In addition to losing Alyssa Seneviratne and Carol Vitellas to graduation, New Albany also will be without seniors Francesca DiLorenzo and Sydney Setnar.
DiLorenzo, who missed most of the 2013 season because of a broken foot, will forgo her high school season to play in United States Tennis Association tournaments.
Setnar now attends Olentangy Liberty.
"We have a lot of young players, and only one senior (Haffer) will be in our top seven," Thomas said. "We have a lot of holes as far as that goes, but we have a lot of young talent.
"I like competition. We only have limited spots. We're one of the best teams in Ohio on a year-in, year-out basis and it's tough to decide who will be here."
New Albany's OCC-Capital opener is Tuesday, Aug. 19, at Olentangy Orange. The Eagles' first home match is Aug. 26 against league foe Franklin Heights.
New Albany earned 41 of a possible 42 points in OCC-Capital play last year, finishing ahead of runner-up Orange (37, 6-1).
The Eagles finished third in the inaugural OCC first-place tournament, scoring 12 points behind Dublin Jerome (17) and Upper Arlington (13) and ahead of Pickerington Central (8).
New Albany's final nine scheduled regular-season matches, and 10 of its last 12, will be at home. The previous facility was replaced during lengthy construction that cost the Eagles' boys tennis team its entire home schedule this past spring.
The boys team played designated home matches at Gahanna.
For now, facilities are the last thing on the Eagles' minds.
"Last year (at state) is always on my mind," Cash said. "I play pretty regularly, and I have really tried to work on my serve and my overall game. Not winning a match at state motivates me to get better every day. I'd like to do better this year."
Aug. 13 -- at Gahanna
Aug. 14 -- at Pickerington North
*Aug. 19 -- at Olentangy Orange
Aug. 23 -- Watterson Invitational at Park of Roses
*Aug. 26 -- vs. Franklin Heights
*Aug. 28 -- at Worthington Kilbourne
*Sept. 2 -- at Delaware
*Sept. 4 -- vs. Mount Vernon
Sept. 6 -- vs. Cincinnati Sycamore
Sept. 6 -- vs. Mason
*Sept. 9 -- vs. Olentangy
Sept. 10 -- vs. Watterson
*Sept. 11 -- vs. Big Walnut
Sept. 15 -- vs. Pickerington Central
Sept. 20 -- OCC tournament at TBD
Sept. 23 -- vs. Columbus Academy
Sept. 29 -- vs. Dublin Jerome