Central doubles team bows out at district
Junior Nithya Raya and sophomore Kyah Thomas of the Pickerington High School Central girls tennis team advanced to the second round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 12 at Hilliard Davidson in doubles, but not the way they planned or wanted.
Their first-round opponent, Olentangy's Brianna Brdicka and Megan Brdicka, withdrew because of illness. That put Raya and Thomas into the second round against Dublin Jerome's Eleanor Bullock and Caitlyn Merzbacher, and their rust showed early in the match.
Raya and Thomas lost the first set 6-1, rebounded to win the second 7-6 (8-6) and led early in the third but couldn't hang on, losing 6-3 and ending their season one win shy of qualifying for the state tournament.
"We went in like we hadn't practiced," Raya said. "The second set, we just got warmed up and had that thought of state in our minds. We got to a tiebreak and won. Maybe we got overconfident in that third set, but we shouldn't have lost."
The top four finishers in singles and doubles at district advanced to state Friday, Oct. 19, at Ohio State and Saturday, Oct. 20, at Davidson.
"After that first set, (Raya and Thomas) weren't going anywhere, and it was good to see they had that fight in them. They stepped up and played well," coach Kelli Rings said. "I just think their attitudes turned around. They decided, 'We're on a court. Let's give it our all.' That's when we saw some better play out of them. It's never fun losing, but they can be proud of themselves. They gave their best effort."
Also competing at district for Central was the doubles team of junior Peyton Klein and sophomore Madi Schott. The duo lost their first-round match, 6-0, 6-1 to New Albany's Cristina and Francesca DiLorenzo.
Highlighting Central's season was its fifth consecutive OCC-Ohio Division title. The Tigers went 7-0 in league dual matches and finished the league tournament Sept. 29 at Reynoldsburg with 77 points to finish well ahead of runner-up Gahanna (45, 5-2). Pickerington North (42, 5-2) placed third, followed by Reynoldsburg (41, 4-3), Lancaster (34, 4-3), Grove City (17, 2-5), Newark (5, 1-6) and Groveport (4, 0-7).
The Tigers won all five courts in the league tournament with Thomas at first singles, Raya at second singles, sophomore Nikkia Thompson at third singles, Klein and Schott at first doubles and junior Audrey Covert and senior Allyna Fischbach at second doubles.
Thomas earned OCC-Ohio Player of the Year honors after going undefeated in league play.
"I just think it was because I changed my attitude and become more positive instead of being mad all the time," Thomas said. "Once I changed my attitude, my game became better."
The Tigers finished 16-4 overall, ending their regular season with wins over Columbus Academy (3-2 on Oct. 9) and Columbus School for Girls (5-0 on Oct. 10).
Central has only one senior in Fischbach. Covert, Klein, Raya, Schott, Thomas and Thompson are expected to return next season.
Covert, Fishbach and Thompson each played singles at sectional Oct. 4 and 6 at Central and lost in the first round, as the top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to district.
"If we put a little bit more work forth, we could be the ones advancing next year," Rings said. "Live and learn. You have to learn from your mistakes, make yourself better and see where that gets you."
Panthers duo falls short at district
North's doubles team of seniors Melody Liu and Kelsey Weinstein lost to Upper Arlington's Audrey Berger and Elaine Cloern 6-0, 6-0 in the first round of the district tournament, which concluded Oct. 13.
The Panthers, who finished 10-7 overall and ended their regular season with a 4-1 win over Dublin Scioto on Oct. 9, are expected to return junior Rachel Sorensen and sophomores Rachel Brady, Shaili Kothari, Emily Robinson, Maddie Schroeder and Noelle Wilson.
At sectional Oct. 4 and 6 at Reynoldsburg, Brady and Sorensen went 1-1 in doubles and Kothari, Robinson and Wilson each went 1-1 in singles.