The Upper Arlington High School boys tennis team won the OCC-Central Division championship and the OTCA Division I state team title last season as well as having Billy Weldon and Stu Little capture the Division I state doubles championship.

The Upper Arlington High School boys tennis team won the OCC-Central Division championship and the OTCA Division I state team title last season as well as having Billy Weldon and Stu Little capture the Division I state doubles championship.

However, sixth-year coach Amos Allison said the Golden Bears don't need to worry about living up to anything they accomplished last season.

"We're not defending anything," said Allison, whose team opens Thursday, March 31, with an OCC-Central match at home against Thomas Worthington. "What we're trying to do this year is create a new identity.

"Hopefully, they can maintain the hunger and the motivation they had last season."

UA, which finished 23-0 overall last year after defeating Toledo St. John's 3-1 in the OTCA state team final, returns five of its top seven players from last season, including Weldon and Little.

Weldon, a senior who has signed a letter of intent to play for Butler University, and Little, a sophomore, became the program's 15th state doubles champions last year, defeating New Albany's Riyad Bennoui and John Hendrix 6-4, 6-1 in the state final.

"Their overall intensity and work ethic motivated the rest of the team," Allison said. "After practices, they didn't go home. They'd stick around hitting or go to their private coaches or play pick-up matches. They had a goal in mind and worked hard to achieve it."

Weldon and Little will be competing with seniors Eric Vannatta and Bryan Wang, sophomores Brandon Griffin and Nate Wallace and freshman Jeffrey Melvin for playing time at singles.

Last season at district, Griffin lost to Dublin Coffman's Hiromi Nakayama 6-2, 6-1 and Vannatta and Wallace lost to Hilliard Davidson's Trent Searfoss and Ben McClarren 6-2, 6-4 in state-qualifying matches.

Sophomore Peter Pema and freshman Lucas Rooney also are expected to contribute.

According to Allison, the Bears' depth will be challenged by a demanding OCC-Central and non-league schedule.

Last year, UA went 7-0 in the OCC-Central dual matches and finished the league tournament with 73 points to win its 28th consecutive league championship. Coffman (6-1, 58) placed second, followed by Thomas Worthington (5-2, 56), Worthington Kilbourne (4-3, 46), Davidson (3-4, 40), Hilliard Darby (2-5, 37), Westland (1-6, 15) and Central Crossing (0-7, 8)

Winning league titles were Little (second singles), Vannatta and Weldon (first doubles), and Wallace and 2010 graduate Andrew Giljahn (second doubles).

The OCC-Central produced three of the four state qualifiers in singles and two of the four qualifiers in doubles last season, with Kilbourne graduate Kevin Metka winning the state singles title.

UA will play host to 2010 Division I state runner-up Toledo St. John's on April 8 and visits defending Division II state champion Columbus Academy on May 5.

Also on the schedule are matches against perennial powers Cincinnati Sycamore (April 5), Louisville (Ky.) St. Xavier (April 22), Gahanna (April 23), Hunting Valley University School (April 23) and Bexley (May 2).

"This is the toughest schedule we've had since I've been coach," Allison said.

"Other teams are going to come at us with everything they have. We have to stay motivated and committed."