Focused Thomas key to Central's fortunes
Anyone who simply stumbled across a match involving Isis Thomas of the Pickerington High School Central girls tennis team would have to wait awhile to find out how she was doing.
Win or lose, strong point or service error, Thomas wears the same game face. According to coach Kelli Rings, that's part of the strong play that carried Thomas to a 16-3 record in dual matches this season and helped the Tigers win their sixth consecutive OCC-Ohio Division championship.
Thomas, however, credited Rings.
"When I get down coach Kelli will tell me what I need to do. She'll pump me up, too," Thomas, a junior, said Sept. 28 during the OCC's inaugural first-place tournament on Central's home courts. "She'll make me feel more comfortable. It's not as much about the groundstrokes or anything as much as I need the energy to get myself pumped up. I will get mad and start crying and doing crazy things."
At that point, Rings interrupted and said, while smiling, "She's done very little of that."
Thomas replied, "She (Rings) has kept me in a good place, kept me calm and given me great support."
Thomas has supported the team as well, playing either first or second singles the entire season. She and her sister, junior Kyah Thomas, earned the top seed in doubles for the Division I sectional tournament Thursday, Oct. 3, and Saturday, Oct. 5, at Central.
Kyah Thomas' second-place finish at first singles paced the Tigers to a fourth-place finish in the clash of OCC champions. Central earned eight points, finishing behind Dublin Jerome (17), Upper Arlington (13) and New Albany (12).
The champions of all four OCC divisions played for the overall conference championship for the first time, replacing the previous format of postseason divisional tournaments coupled with regular-season dual matches deciding league winners.
Teams earned four points per first-place finisher, three points for second, two points for third and one for fourth.
Central was 7-0 with 42 points to win the OCC-Ohio. The Tigers were 16-3 overall after losing to Upper Arlington 4-1 on Sept. 30 and before playing Dublin Coffman on Oct. 1.
Junior Nikkia Thompson was 1-1 and finished third in third singles for the Tigers. Finishing fourth were Isis Thomas at second singles, the first-doubles team of senior Peyton Klein and junior Madi Schott and the second-doubles team of senior Audrey Covert and junior Patricia Ladipo.
"It isn't the day I had planned for us," Rings said. "I always have high expectations of these kids. They're very talented and they have to be able to push themselves on the court, too, and I just don't think we were there on many of the courts. This should have been an exciting day for them to come out with four OCC champions all in one place. You should be able to raise the bar, raise your game, and I don't feel like we did that overall at all."
The top four finishers in singles and doubles from each of the four sectional tournaments -- the others are at Hilliard Davidson, Reynoldsburg and Upper Arlington -- advance to the district tournament Oct. 11 and 12 at Davidson.
Playing singles for Central will be Covert, Ladipo and Thompson, who is seeded third. Klein and Schott will remain a doubles team.
Panthers shine in fourth-place event
Sophomore Madison Cruse and junior Mykayla Hagaman won second doubles to lead Pickerington North to a second-place finish in the OCC's fourth-place tournament Sept. 28 at Hilliard Darby.
Cruse and Hagaman defeated Davidson's Hillary Hunt and Chloe Shevlin 6-1, 3-6, 13-11 in a semifinal and Darby's Deepthi Nacharaju and Abigail Niehaus 6-0, 6-2 in the final.
Earning runner-up finishes were sophomore Julia Robson in second singles, freshman Shivani Kothari in third singles and the first-doubles team of junior Maddie Schroeder and senior Rachel Sorensen. All went 1-1, as did junior Shaili Kothari in first singles. She finished third.
North finished with 15 points, behind Davidson (18) and ahead of Darby (11) and Big Walnut (6).
"Overall, we've been playing our best tennis of the year by far over the last week," coach Brian Hoff said.
"(We) beat a good team in Thomas Worthington 4-1 (on Sept. 25) in which all of the girls played one of their best matches of the season. We are peaking at the right time heading into the postseason."
The Panthers, who are 10-7 overall and finished 4-3 in the OCC-Ohio, will participate in the Davidson sectional and are projected to field the same lineup as last weekend.