Not only is the Pickerington High School Central girls tennis team winning consistently this season, but the Tigers are doing it in dominating fashion. Through 18 matches, Central won all five courts in 10 of its 15 victories.

Not only is the Pickerington High School Central girls tennis team winning consistently this season, but the Tigers are doing it in dominating fashion. Through 18 matches, Central won all five courts in 10 of its 15 victories.

"Everyone is on their game right now," coach Kelli Rings said. "The singles are tacking care of business, the first doubles has been rolling all season and the second doubles is finally getting their groove on. Everything is working right now."

Central plays host to the OCC-Ohio Division tournament on Saturday. The Tigers have won both conference titles since the OCC realigned before the 2008-09 school year. Central enters in position for its third consecutive title at 7-0, ahead of Pickerington North at 6-1, Lancaster at 5-2 and Gahanna at 4-3. The Tigers have the full attention and respect from their conference foes.

"I don't know if anyone can catch Kelly's team," Gahanna coach Chris Schwinnen said. "They're fantastic and I don't think she'll let them ease up for a second and it's a testament to the coach that she is. They have to have an absolutely horrible day for Pickerington North, Lancaster or even us to get close to them. It'll be tough to knock them off."

Central's lineup has remained intact with the exception of a change here or there. At first singles, freshman Nithya Raya has continued to produce.

"She is holding her own," Rings said. "Even though she's a freshman, she's carrying herself well there and it's really something."

Rounding out the singles lineup are Nicole Smith and Sarah Gordon. They have alternated between the second- and third-singles court. Ashley Buckler and Nevada Brancifort have been steady at first doubles and Rings appears to have settled on Chineze Okapalaoka and Cathi Cho at second doubles.

"Chineze and Cathi are undefeated in third sets in their last 10 matches," Rings said. "Those two seem to be the right combination right now and they've battled through a lot of tough matches together."

Central's consistent winning has produced a confident team entering Saturday. Of the Tigers' seven conference dual matches, they won six by a 5-0 score. Only North gave the Tigers any problems, but Central still won 4-1.

"North definitely has a strong team," Rings said. "We're definitely not thinking too far ahead and they're the team we're looking out for."

Last season, Central went 6-0 with 63 points in league play, ahead of runner-up North (5-1, 45).

"Now that all the conference dual matches are done they can start thinking about the conference tournament," Rings said of her players. "They go in feeling they got through all seven matches with little complications. They need to stay positive and they haven't gotten rattled this year if their game isn't on, so that's been nice to see."


At a glance

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

CENTRAL

*Sept. 7 - Defeated Newark 5-0

Sept. 8 - Def. Worthington Kilbourne 4-1

Sept. 13 - Def. Westerville Central 5-0

*Sept. 14 - Def. Grove City 5-0

Sept. 15 - Def. Bexley 5-0

Sept. 20 - Lost to Dublin Coffman 3-2

*Sept. 21 - Def. Reynoldsburg 5-0

Sept. 22 - Def. Thomas Worthington 4-1

Sept. 23 - Lost to Watterson 3-2

Last Monday - Match vs. Hilliard Davidson postponed

Last Wednesday - Played Dublin Scioto

Saturday - OCC-Ohio tournament at home

Tuesday - Home vs. Dublin Coffman

Of note: The Tigers were 15-3 overall before last Monday and finished 7-0 in OCC-Ohio.

*OCC-Ohio match

NORTH

*Sept. 7 - Def. Lancaster 4-0. Match ended before all five courts finished because of bad weather.

Sept. 8 - Lost to New Albany 4-1 in OTCA tournament

Sept. 9 - Def. Hilliard Davidson 4-1

*Sept. 14 - Def. Newark 5-0

Sept. 15 - Lost to Coffman 3-2

Sept. 16 - Def. Chillicothe 3-2

*Sept. 21 - Def. Grove City 4-1

Sept. 23 - Def. Westerville Central 4-1

Last Tuesday - Played Upper Arlington

Today - Home vs. Thomas

Saturday - OCC-Ohio tournament at Pickerington Central

Tuesday - Home vs. Watkins Memorial

Of note: The Panthers were 11-3 overall before last Tuesday and finished 6-1 in OCC-Ohio.

*OCC-Ohio match