For the first time, the Pickerington High School North boys tennis team successfully defended its home courts at the Panther Invitational.

For the first time, the Pickerington High School North boys tennis team successfully defended its home courts at the Panther Invitational.

Last Saturday, North scored 27 points to finish ahead of Poland Seminary (23), Hudson (14), Reynoldsburg (13), Canfield (13), Pickerington Central (10), St. Mary's Memorial (8) and The Plains Athens (8).

"We've been doing this six years for both boys and girls and the best we've had are a couple second-place finishes," North coach Brian Hoff said. "We're always in the top three or four, but we could never get over that hurdle. At times we haven't played our best, and at times we've come up against really good teams. This year, everything came together."

The Panther Invitational format is slightly different than other tournaments, with three doubles courts and one singles court. North was represented in all three doubles finals, winning two.

"It was a total team effort from top to bottom," Hoff said. "In a tournament format like this, it is so important to win the first-round match. We won all four first-round matches. When we got off to a good start, good things started to seem possible."

In the finals, Ryan Gorring and Matt Gordon defeated Central's Josh Fridley and Mason Roese 6-3, 6-4 at second doubles and North's Eric Frost and Adit Vakil defeated Canfield's Scott Kamenitsa and Steven Dalvin 6-3,6-1 at third doubles.

"It was special to win it," Gorring said. "Neither the girls or the boys won it since Pickerington North started. It was also special because it always seemed we finished behind Hudson."

Hudson has won two of the last three Panther Invitationals.

North returned to the OCC-Ohio Division schedule last Tuesday against Newark and Central and will finish league duals Monday at Gahanna and Tuesday at Grove City. The OCC tournament is May 9.

"We hope to build on the momentum," Hoff said. "The tournament will play a big role in that and we hope to carry that into the league matches and see what we can do."

The competition also will increase within the league as North was able to get Hudson and Poland Seminary in a down year.

"We only lost one senior last year so we pretty much had the same team as last year," Gordon said.

"Poland and Hudson lost some key seniors so that was a big help. Also, our invitational is not a normal match of two doubles and three singles. There is some different strategies involved and it looks like our coach picked right."

Hoff uses the Panther Invitational as a way to experiment to find his strongest pairings in doubles and he saw other coaches do the same.

Gorring and Gordon, two-time district qualifiers, continued to be the Panthers' top doubles team. Their experience shows in competition.

"They're playing their best tennis together," Hoff said.

"They played together in the offseason, took some doubles lessons and learned to work well together. Ryan is a quieter guy and Matt has an outgoing personality. They mesh nicely together."

At a glance

Below are recent results and coming schedules for the Central and North boys tennis teams:

CENTRAL

April 16 -- Defeated Dublin Scioto 5-0

*April 18 -- Lost to Gahanna 3-2

*April 22 -- Def. Groveport 5-0

*April 23 -- Def. Newark 4-1

Last Saturday -- Finished sixth (10) behind champion and host North (27) in Panther Invitational

Last Monday -- Lost to DeSales 3-2

*Last Tuesday -- Played Grove City and North

Today -- At Thomas Worthington

*Tuesday -- At Reynoldsburg

Of note: The Tigers were 5-3 overall and 3-1 in the OCC-Ohio before last Tuesday.

NORTH

April 15 -- Match at New Albany postponed. No makeup date has been announced.

*April 16 -- Def. Olentangy 5-0

*April 21 -- Match at Gahanna postponed. It was rescheduled for May 11.

*April 23 -- Def. Lancaster 5-0

Last Saturday -- Finished first in home Panther Invitational.

Last Monday -- Def. Olentangy Orange 5-0

*Last Tuesday -- Played Newark and Central

Today -- At Hilliard Davidson

Saturday -- At Dover Invitational

*Monday -- At Gahanna

*Tuesday -- At Grove City

Wednesday -- At Chillicothe

Of note: The Tigers were 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Ohio before last Tuesday.

*OCC-Ohio match