The Pickerington High School Central girls tennis team will attempt to defend its OCC-Ohio Division title Saturday.

The Pickerington High School Central girls tennis team will attempt to defend its OCC-Ohio Division title Saturday.

"This season has gone so quickly it's hard to believe we're even looking at the postseason," coach Kelli Rings said. "I'm pleased with how the girls are playing. They're all playing really well."

Before last Tuesday's final conference dual match against Reynoldsburg, Central was 11-2 overall and 5-0 in the OCC-Ohio Division.

Once again, the Tigers are the team to beat Saturday.

"Central has been the most impressive team," said Gahanna coach Chris Schwinnen, whose team lost to the Tigers 4-1 on Sept. 1. "Central is head and shoulders better above everyone else we've played this season."

North finished 5-1 in its conference duals, losing to Central 4-1 on Aug. 25.

"We're a much better team now than at the beginning of the year," North coach Brian Hoff said. "We played Central early in the season and it wasn't our best effort. They're a solid team. But one thing I learned in high school tennis is you never know what's going to happen and you can't assume anything."

Central's lack of assumption to winning another conference title has helped the on-court performance, according to Rings.

"The girls are not getting all stressed out about who they're playing," Rings said. "They're still taking care of business. They know every court is important, and everyone is trying to do their job and come through for the team. So we feel good about that going into Saturday."

Central's first-doubles team of Ashley and Molly Buckler was 13-0 before last Tuesday.

"We're confident, especially in each other," Molly Buckler said. "She knows my capabilities and I know hers. We don't want to let each other down, either, so we always try our hardest."

"She's one of my best friends," Ashley Buckler said. "So I get to play with someone I like plus I'm able to communicate with her better and easily talk to her because she's my sister."

The duo competed in the conference tournament last season, but Molly Buckler was at second singles and Ashley Buckler at third singles. Central returned six of the seven competitors who were in the conference tournament lineup last year with the Buckler sisters, Nevada Brancifort, Sarah Gordon, Martina Powell and Nicole Smith.

"They seem to be more on the same page this year," Rings said. "We'll have the same bodies on the court just in different spots and they're going to want more. They have the bar set higher this year."

Last season, Central (7-0, 68 points) finished first ahead of Reynoldsburg (5-2, 50) and North (6-1, 49).

"Last year we pretty much had the perfect day at the tournament," Rings said. "If we have a repeat of their mindset I'd be happy. They were all so focused, and I'm hoping they come back with the same demeanor."

Hoff has been impressed with his team's demeanor as North has displayed some uncommon traits.

"They are very driven," Hoff said. "Not a lot of teams want to work hard throughout the year. They want to have fun. But this group wants to be a better team and get better as individuals. You can't say that every year as a coach and it's been a pleasant surprise."

North's lineup entering Saturday still was undecided. Sruti Brahmandam and Summer Ruckh have battled at the top of the singles lineup all season.

Melody Liu has settled in at third singles the last three weeks. Vicky Nguyen and Martina Stojanovska will compete at first doubles. A trio of players are vying for time at second doubles in Kelsey Navin, Mary Patterson and Kelsie Weinstein.

At a glance

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

CENTRAL

*Sept. 8 -- Defeated Groveport 5-0

Sept. 9 -- Def. Bexley 3-2

*Sept. 15 -- Def. Newark 5-0

Sept. 16 -- Def. Worthington Kilbourne 3-2

Sept. 17 -- Def. Dublin Scioto 4-1

Sept. 24 -- Match vs. Columbus School for Girls postponed because of bad weather. No makeup date has been announced.

*Last Tuesday -- Played Reynoldsburg

Last Wednesday -- Played Hilliard Davidson

Saturday -- At home OCC-Ohio championships

Tuesday -- Home vs. Thomas Worthington

Wednesday -- At Dublin Coffman

Of note: The Tigers were 11-2 overall and 5-0 in the OCC-Ohio before last Tuesday.

NORTH

*Sept. 8 -- Def. Gahanna 4-1

Sept. 10 -- Lost to Worthington Kilbourne 3-2

*Sept. 15 -- Def. Lancaster 5-0

Sept. 17 -- Def. Westerville Central 4-1

*Sept. 22 -- Def. Newark 5-0

Sept. 24 -- Match vs. Thomas Worthington postponed because of bad weather. No makeup date has been announced.

Last Tuesday -- Played Big Walnut

Last Wednesday -- Played Chillicothe

Today -- Home vs. Hilliard Bradley

Saturday -- At Central at OCC-Ohio tournament

Tuesday -- At Watkins Memorial

Of note: The Panthers were 8-3 overall before last Tuesday and finished 5-1 in OCC-Ohio duals.

*OCC-Ohio match