Even though Niki Stearns won her first 16 matches at first singles, the Centennial High School senior wasn't seeded in the top four for the Division I sectional girls tennis tournament Thursday, Oct. 3, and Saturday, Oct. 5, at Pickerington Central.
Stars coach Barbara Stevenson said Stearns deserved to be seeded, but emphasized being overlooked shouldn't hurt her chances of qualifying for district.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles from each of the four sectionals advance to the district tournament Oct. 11 and 12 at Hilliard Davidson.
"Niki is undefeated and she's dropped only seven games all year (entering this week), so I think she probably should have been seeded," Stevenson said. "But as it turned out, it doesn't really matter because we've got her in the same bracket as the No. 4 seed (Worthington Kilbourne's Erica Chen) and that's a match we feel like she can win to make it through.
"I think Niki's going to be a surprise in this tournament if she plays as well as she's played all year."
Last year, Stearns went 3-1 and placed third in a Division II sectional before going 1-1 at district, losing to eventual state champion Rachel Morales of Hartley 6-1, 6-0 in a state-qualifying match.
Stearns is enjoying another strong season. In the City League coaches tournament, which was held Sept. 23 at Columbus South and Sept. 25 at Wolfe Park, she went 4-0 to win the singles title for the third consecutive year.
"Niki's on a roll, so I think she's ready for the next level of competition," Stevenson said.
Jani Stearns and Kate Sullivan also will compete in singles at sectional. Playing doubles will be the teams of Kayla Allen and Anaya Williams and Becca Schulz and Qiufen Schumacher.
"I just hope all of them play well and go as far as they can go," Stevenson said.
Centennial was 10-2 overall before playing Hilliard Davidson on Sept. 30.
The Stars finished second (63 points) in the City coaches tournament behind Whetstone (95.5) and ahead of Eastmoor Academy (34.5), Independence (22), Columbus West (18), Beechcroft (16.5), Mifflin (15.5), Linden-McKinley (12.5), Africentric (8.5), Marion-Franklin (5) and Northland (4.5).
In singles, Niki Stearns beat Whestone's Alex Myers 6-2, 6-0 in the final. Jani Stearns went 3-1 and Sullivan went 2-1.
In doubles, the teams of Schulz and Schumacher and Allen and Williams each went 2-1.
"Whetstone took first because their doubles teams are so good, but it wasn't a walk in the park," Stevenson said. "Our singles players did very well against some good competition and we played pretty well overall."
Golfers aiming for top-two league finish
The boys golf team will compete in the 10-team City League tournament Wednesday, Oct. 9, at Airport.
Centennial is in second place with 32 points and a 16-2 league record entering the event, behind Whetstone (36, 18-0) and ahead of third-place Briggs (28, 14-4).
A team gains two points for each opponent it finishes ahead of in the City tournament.
"We would have to finish first and Whetstone would have to finish in third place for us just to tie them for the City championship, and I don't see that happening," coach Barry Baker said. "Our goal is to stay in second place, and I'd like to see us shoot under 200 to challenge Whetstone for first place in the tournament. Realistically, if we finish in the top two in both the tournament and in the league standings, that would be a good day for us."
The Stars wrapped up their non-tournament league schedule last week, starting with a 196-252 victory over Columbus West on Sept. 24 at Mentel Memorial as Phil Pezzatta (47) was medalist.
On Sept. 26 at Mentel Memorial, Centennial was second (215) behind Whetstone (180) and ahead of Briggs (225) and Eastmoor Academy (266). Pezzatta (46), Robert Turner (53), Austin Shearer (57) and Matt Turner (59) scored.
"I've had my top six players show up for only one of our 10 City matches this season for a variety of reasons and that's something we need to improve upon next year," Baker said.
Pezzatta, Russell Chambers and Robert Turner also competed in a Division I sectional Oct. 1 at Granville Golf Course. The top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to the district tournament Tuesday, Oct. 8, at Apple Valley, where the top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to state Oct. 18 and 19 at Ohio State's Scarlet Course.
Football team falls to Punchers
The football team lost to visiting Mifflin 53-21 on Sept. 27 to drop to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the City-North.
Montrese Frasier rushed for four touchdowns for the Punchers, who outgained the Stars 410-279 while improving to 3-2 overall and 2-0 in the City-North.
Centennial quarterback Jeremy Johnson rushed four yards for a touchdown and threw touchdown passes of four and 11 yards to tight end Jirequez Fair-Harris.
The Stars play another league game Friday, Oct. 4, at Northland.
The Vikings routed Columbus East 64-20 on Sept. 27 to improve to 3-1 overall and 1-1 in the City-North, as running back Nateshawn Hargrove rushed for 221 yards and four touchdowns on eight carries.
Quarterback Nick Fischer threw two touchdown passes, including a 60-yarder to receiver Glenn Smith III.
Receiver Jhustus Cornley also scored three touchdowns, on a 43-yard reception from Fischer, a 73-yard run and a 65-yard punt return.