Pickerington High School Central girls tennis coach Kelli Rings would be happy if her team's season lasted just as long this year as last.
The only difference is she'd rather be watching a Division I state championship match than the third-place tilt.
Senior twins Isis and Kyah Thomas return to lead the Tigers on the heels of finishing third in doubles last year at state. They are expected to be Central's top two singles players in some order during the regular season.
"They're both equal in talent," said Rings, who is in her 16th season.
"They have their own goals. They definitely want to better what they did last year, and with as hard as they've worked, I think they have a chance to do that."
The Thomas sisters were Central's first state qualifiers since 2007, when the doubles team of Jenny Hand and Colleen Luce lost in the first round.
The sisters defeated Toledo Notre Dame Academy's Teagan McNamara and Alicia Nahhas 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 in the third-place match. They were sectional champions and runners-up at district.
Kyah Thomas played first singles in Central's season-opening 5-0 win over visiting Lexington on Aug. 14, followed by Isis Thomas at second singles and junior Nikkia Thompson at third singles.
Sophomore Maddie Bechert and senior Lydia Stang played first doubles, with senior Vilanie Cable and sophomore Jessi Weidner at second doubles.
"This is a good core group," Rings said. "I've seen improvement even early on here. At this point, it's a matter of determining that pecking order. It'll make the girls work even harder."
Also on the roster are seniors Katelyn Gordon and Madi Schott. Rings said both likely will play doubles.
Schott teamed with Bechert last year to finish fourth at sectional in doubles and advance to district, where they lost in the first round.
Central was 16-3 overall and 7-0 in the OCC-Ohio Division last year, scoring the maximum 42 points in league play to finish ahead of runner-up Gahanna (34, 6-1).
The Tigers began OCC-Ohio play Aug. 19 against Lancaster.
"This is an older team, but the girls who are here have earned it," Rings said.
"I don't think the entire lineup will be decided early. We'll see how the girls handle themselves, and how their games will progress. I trust that the girls will mesh well."
Panthers coach hopes veterans provide wins
North coach Brian Hoff hopes the return of six players helps the Panthers finish higher than third in the OCC-Ohio for the first time since 2011.
North has three seniors in Mykayla Hagaman, Shaili Kothari and Maddie Schroeder, followed by juniors Leah Hohnberger, Kenzie Norris and Julia Robson and sophomores Shivani Kothari and Maegan Lloyd.
Lloyd and Norris did not play varsity last year.
"Four players (the Kothari sisters, Robson and Schroeder) have been fairly close and going back and forth in practice," Hoff said. "On any given day, any of them can beat the other ones. (That) provides us with some depth in our lineup."
Hoff juggled the lineup in two 5-0 losses last week, to Dublin Jerome on Aug. 12 and New Albany on Aug. 14. Hagaman, Hohnberger and Robson moved between singles and doubles those two days, Schroeder played first singles against Jerome and second singles against New Albany, and Shivani Kothari played second singles in the opener before moving down to third singles.
"(Schroeder) is a solid singles player who keeps a lot of balls in play," Hoff said. "(Shivani Kothari) has some of the best ground strokes on the team (and) hits lots of winners. ... We are still working on doubles teams and looking for a mix of how their strengths and weaknesses match up as well as the right mix of chemistry."
North finished second in the OCC-Ohio in 2011, third in 2012 and fourth last year (27 points, 4-3). North finished 10-8 overall a year ago.
The Panthers' league opener was Aug. 19 against Newark.
"We have a tough schedule early on to help us get ready for the league matches," Hoff said. "Our goal is to finish in the top two in the OCC, which we have not done the last couple of years. We also would like to advance to the district tournament again this year after coming up short last year. If the girls work hard in practice and are determined to improve, we should have a successful year."
Aug. 14 -- vs. Lexington
Aug. 16 -- Columbus School for Girls Invitational
*Aug. 19 -- vs. Lancaster
Aug. 22 -- vs. Toledo St. Ursula
Aug. 23 -- Pickerington Central Invitational
*Aug. 26 -- at Reynoldsburg
*Aug. 28 -- vs. Groveport
*Sept. 2 -- vs. Pickerington North
*Sept. 4 -- at Gahanna
*Sept. 9 -- vs. Grove City
*Sept. 11 -- at Newark
Sept. 16 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
Sept. 18 -- at Olentangy
Sept. 20 -- OCC tournament at TBA
Sept. 23 -- vs. Bexley
Sept. 24 -- at Dublin Scioto
Sept. 25 -- at New Albany
Sept. 29 -- vs. Watterson
Sept. 30 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
Oct. 6 -- at Dublin Jerome
Oct. 7 -- vs. Upper Arlington
Oct. 8 -- at Columbus Academy
Aug. 12 -- at Dublin Jerome
Aug. 14 -- vs. New Albany
*Aug. 19 -- vs. Newark
Aug. 20 -- at Upper Arlington
Aug. 21 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne
*Aug. 26 -- at Lancaster
*Aug. 28 -- vs. Gahanna
*Sept. 2 -- at Pickerington Central
Sept. 3 -- at Olentangy Orange
*Sept. 4 -- at Grove City
*Sept. 9 -- vs. Reynoldsburg
*Sept. 11 -- vs. Groveport
Sept. 15 -- vs. Olentangy
Sept. 16 -- at Hilliard Davidson
Sept. 18 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
Sept. 20 -- OCC tournament at TBA
Sept. 24 -- vs. Westerville Central
Sept. 25 -- at Chillicothe
Sept. 30 -- at Thomas Worthington