The Reynoldsburg High School boys tennis team had to overcome a lack of depth and experience en route to a 9-7 record last season.

The Reynoldsburg High School boys tennis team had to overcome a lack of depth and experience en route to a 9-7 record last season.

Coach Mark Mathias believes neither issue will be an obstacle this year. The Raiders had 18 players try out and return five of last year's starting seven.

"This year, we have a lot of depth and there's been a lot of good competition in practice so far," said Mathias, whose 29th season as coach begins Friday, April 1, against Fisher Catholic. "The guys are really pushing each other and that's going to make us better. We had quality players last year, but we have more of them this year."

The additional players have the program headed in the right direction, senior Ryne Kitchen said.

"Last year, we only had eight players, and this year that number is up to 18 with nine freshmen," he said. "It's kind of exciting to have enough for a varsity and junior varsity lineup. We've got five or six players who are at the same skill level, so we have to find two doubles teams to work together."

Kitchen, senior Austin Dresbach, junior Adam Edwards and sophomores Kyle O'Brien and Brandon Person all return from last year.

None of the returnees advanced out of a Division I sectional tournament last season. In singles, O'Brien lost to Grove City's Tyler Andrick 6-0, 6-1 in a play-in match and Person lost to Pickerington Central's Mason Roese 6-0, 6-1 in the second round. In doubles, Dresbach and 2010 graduate Brandon Totman lost to Westerville South's Bryan McKenzie and Graham Russell 6-3, 6-4 in the second round, and Edwards and Kitchen lost to Christian Showalter and Joe Tysko of Athens 7-5, 6-1 in the first round.

Newcomers to the team include junior Sai Korada, sophomore Pope Blake (a transfer from Wellington) and freshmen Zach Kahl, Isaac Khan and Yosef Maher.

Mathias hopes the depth of the team will help Reynoldsburg improve on last year's fifth-place finish in the OCC-Ohio Division. The Raiders went 2-5 and totaled 24 points. Gahanna, (7-0, 67) won its second consecutive title. Central (6-1, 58), Pickerington North (5-2, 43), Grove City (4-3, 25), Reynoldsburg, Newark (2-5, 20), Lancaster (2-5, 17) and Groveport (0-7, 14) rounded out the standings.

Edwards, who defeated Groveport's Carlos Childs 6-2, 7-6 at second singles, and Totman, who defeated North's Eric Lovejoy 6-1, 6-1 at third singles, both placed third at the OCC-Ohio tournament for the Raiders' top finishes. Dresbach defeated North's Alex Bartsch 8-6 to finish fifth at first singles.

Kitchen and Person lost to Groveport's Evan Zimmerman and Ben Royster 8-6 to place sixth at first doubles. Sophomore Billy Li, who didn't return to the team, and O'Brien defeated Groveport's Zach Sizemore and Courtney Meyer 8-4 to place seventh at second doubles.

Mathias said Gahanna, which returns OCC champions Jesse Shivener (first singles), Canyon Teague (second singles) and Stephen Cheng (third singles), is the team to beat.

"There's a lot of good competition in our league," Mathias said. "Traditionally, Pickerington North and Central have always been pretty good, and Grove City and Lancaster were a lot stronger last year.

"With things being so balanced within our team, I think we're going to be more prepared for the OCC this year. That atmosphere might create more opportunities for us to win some more matches."