Over the course of the season, senior Eric Vannatta and sophomore Nate Wallace of the Upper Arlington High School boys tennis team observed how teammates Billy Weldon and Stu Little - the defending Division I state champions in doubles - get ready for the postseason.

Over the course of the season, senior Eric Vannatta and sophomore Nate Wallace of the Upper Arlington High School boys tennis team observed how teammates Billy Weldon and Stu Little - the defending Division I state champions in doubles - get ready for the postseason.

At the Division I district tournament May 20-21 at Hilliard Davidson, Vannatta and Wallace put what they learned into practice. The duo finished second, defeating St. Charles' Grant Dolven and Weston Niermeyer 6-4, 6-3 in a semifinal before losing to Dublin Jerome's Kent Seitz and Sean Stein 6-4, 7-5 in the final, to advance to the state tournament.

The top four finishers in singles and doubles at district qualified for state, which will be held Friday, May 27, and Saturday, May 28, at Davidson.

"Little and Weldon are the best. There's no doubt we learned a lot from them," Vannatta said. "We have to find places to put shots where they can't hit it back and that is really tough, but it has helped us against a lot of other people."

Weldon and Little also advanced to state, losing to Stein and Seitz - the fourth-place finishers at state last year - 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in a semifinal before defeating Dolven and Niermeyer 6-1, 6-2 in the consolation final to place third.

"(Weldon and Little) are really good competition," Wallace said. "We work hard against them and try to stick with them."

With two doubles teams moving on to state, UA extended its streak of having a state qualifier to 53 years. The Golden Bears also matched the most state qualifiers they have had since 2002.

In the opening round, Vannatta and Wallace will play Lakewood St. Edward's Mike Swartz and Jeffrey Williams, who finished third in the Northeast District. Little and Weldon will open against Perrysburg's Jeffrey Schorsch and David Hoops, who were second in the Northwest District.

By qualifying for state, Vannatta and Wallace achieved some redemption. Last year at district, they lost to Davidson's Ben McClarren and Trent Searfoss 6-2, 6-4 in a state-qualifying match.

"Eric and I have been working really hard with it," Wallace said.

"It's been our goal to make it to states. We were so close to getting there last year. Hopefully we can do something now at the state tournament."

Being the defending state champions, Weldon and Little felt pressure to return to state.

"It's a different mindset. Last year, we were out in front of everybody trying to prove ourselves," Little said. "This year, we have the target on our back. We have to make sure we stay hungry and take care of business."

Weldon and Little had a challenging draw to get back to state. The duo defeated New Albany's John Hendrix, who teamed with 2010 graduate Riyad Bennoui to place second at state last year, and Oliver Sybert 6-0, 6-0 in a quarterfinal before facing Seitz and Stein in a semifinal.

"It was definitely not the easiest draw we could have gotten as a top seed," Weldon said. "When I saw the potential matchups, I figured Upper Arlington and New Albany would square off. It almost seems fitting. We accepted what we had to do and we played the way we were capable of playing."

The Bears came close to having all six of their district qualifiers advance to state. In singles, sophomore Brandon Griffin lost to Thomas Worthington's Casey Cempre 7-6 (7-3), 6-1 in a quarterfinal and freshman Jeffrey Melvin lost to Gahanna's Jesse Shivener 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 in a quarterfinal.

"I thought we might sneak another guy or two through there," coach Amos Allison said. "We left everything on the court. In singles, we fought our butt off and laid it all out there. We played great to get four through (district)."