The Pickerington High School North boys tennis team had five returning letterwinners, but despite the perceived experience, the Panthers featured three sophomores and one freshman.

The Pickerington High School North boys tennis team had five returning letterwinners, but despite the perceived experience, the Panthers featured three sophomores and one freshman.

Coach Brian Hoff wasn't sure what to expect.

"We lost our top three guys from last year, too," he said. "But the guys came together and it was a good season. I wouldn't call it a great season because in order to do that we would have had to win the league title."

North finished 12-4 overall and second in the OCC-Central Division at 4-1 with 52 points behind Thomas Worthington (5-0, 57) and ahead of Delaware (3-2, 24 points), Marysville (2-3, 20), Westerville Central (1-4, 18) and Central Crossing (0-5, 4).

"To finish 12-4, it was better than I thought," Hoff said. "We have most guys coming back and we had some good players on the (junior varsity). Things are very bright for the future."

North will lose one senior in Neelay Thakkar. The Panthers expect to return juniors Matt Gordon and Ryan Gorring, sophomores Brian Good, Adit Vakil and Ryan Yusuf and freshman Sam Prewitt.

Gordon and Gorring, North's first-doubles team, reached the Division I district tournament last Friday at Hilliard Davidson and lost in the first round for the second consecutive season. This time they fell to Davidson's Corey Harvey and Nathan Blackstone 6-1, 7-6 (7-2).

"They were a solid team and made few mistakes," Hoff said. "Our guys played well. After the first set, we calmed down and played good tennis. Overall, I was happy with how they played."

On May 17, Gordon and Gorring lost in a semifinal in the sectional at Hilliard Darby to Josh Rich and Brad Widdoes of Reynoldsburg 7-6, 6-3 before winning the third-place match over Kunal Parikh and Chris Change of Reynoldsburg 6-1, 6-3.

"They're hungry and they've already talked about working hard in the offseason," Hoff said. "It's their goal to make it to the state tournament and it's something they can accomplish. Both want to be the best they can."

Among those expected to return, Yusuf (third singles) and Good and Prewitt (second doubles) finished first in the OCC-Central tournament May 10.

•Central coach Kelli Rings estimated she changed the lineup at least 10 times during the regular season. Despite the inability to find a consistent lineup, the Tigers finished 14-5 overall and second in the OCC-Cardinal at 4-1 with 40 points behind Worthington Kilbourne at 5-0 with 64 points and ahead of Dublin Jerome (2-3, 32 points), Olentangy (2-3, 23), Mount Vernon (1-4, 10) and Westerville South (1-4, 6).

"It was a growing experience," Rings said. "We took too long trying to find those right combinations. The good news is we got plenty of kids playing varsity tennis."

Central will lose seniors Taylor Harsayne and Nischal Raya, but the Tigers are expected to return juniors Josh Fridley and Patrick Nightengale, sophomores Kyle Bloomster, Alex Fischbach, Zach Kristoff, Marshall Levett and Mason Roese and freshmen Ross Dinan, Dallas Stang and Chase Thomas.

"They have to keep working," Rings said. "Our problem is getting started. These boys hang up the racket and don't see them during the summer months when they could be out there playing a whole lot. In the beginning of the season, the kids don't do much with their games and we struggle. We had three of our four losses in the early part of the season, then we rattled off wins."

Raya and Thomas finished third in the Division I sectional at Upper Arlington by beating Thomas Worthington's Davis Edison and Joe Wortman 6-2, 6-0 on May 17.

Last Friday, Raya and Thomas won in the first round of the district tournament at Davidson over Widdoes and Rich 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 before losing to Watterson's Philip Diaz and Chris Diaz 6-0, 6-1.

"Those Diaz boys were a fantastic doubles team," Rings said. "We couldn't have given them a better match, but they knew the doubles game well and they were on the same page. They are very smart high school players."

In the offseason, Rings hopes her expected returnees spend time on the court so next season begins as smoothly as this season ended.

"I'd like to come into a season strong and build off that instead of fighting our way through ugly times," Rings said. "I think we have enough young and eager players that are hungry to play a higher position and they will work hard."

At a glance

CENTRAL

•Record: 14-5 overall, 4-1 with 40 points (second) in OCC-Cardinal

•Seniors lost: Taylor Harsayne and Nischal Raya

•Key returnees: Josh Fridley, Patrick Nightengale and Chase Thomas

NORTH

•Record: 12-4 overall, 4-1 with 52 points (second) in OCC-Central

•Senior lost: Neelay Thakkar

•Key returnees: Matt Gordon, Ryan Gorring, Adit Vakil and Ryan Yusuf