Midway through the season, Upper Arlington High School boys tennis coach Amos Allison didn't see much fire in his team.
Fast-forward to May 11, when the Golden Bears completed a sweep through the OCC-Central Division and won their 31st consecutive league championship. UA played host to the league tournament, which meant Allison had extra administrative duties and wasn't always able to keep close tabs on his players.
"I told the guys they could get me if they really needed me, but other than that, they were on their own," Allison said. "The guys did just fine. They're competitors. They've been through tournaments and know what to expect."
The Bears, who went 7-0 in league dual matches, swept all five courts in the league tournament to finish with 81 points, well ahead of co-runners-up Dublin Coffman (63, 6-1) and Hilliard Davidson (63, 5-2) as well as Olentangy Liberty (42, 3-4), Thomas Worthington (36, 3-4), Marysville (33, 3-4), Central Crossing (12, 1-6) and Westland (0, 0-7).
Senior Stu Little won first singles, defeating Coffman's John Buchan 6-0, 6-0 in the final. Junior Jeffrey Melvin defeated Liberty's Andrew Topinka 6-0, 6-0 in the second singles final and senior Brandon Griffin eased past Davidson's Thomas Porter 6-1, 6-1 in the third singles final.
Senior Nate Wallace and freshman Eric Hunter defeated Coffman's Leon Cai and Brian Do 7-6, 6-1 in the final at first doubles, and seniors Ben Minton and Peter Pema beat Coffman's Connor Geelan and Ken Yoshino 6-0, 6-4 in the second doubles final.
"We're in a better place now than we were a month ago," Allison said. "The guys are a lot more focused and self-motivated now. As you get deeper in the season and closer to the postseason, that pressure becomes more real."
Little earned the top seed and Griffin is seeded third in singles for the Division I sectional tournament Thursday, May 16, and Saturday, May 18, at UA. In doubles, Melvin and Wallace are the top seed and Minton and Pema are seeded second.
Hunter played his way into the singles field, defeating sophomore Anthony Yang in a challenge match.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles at sectional advance to the district tournament May 24 and 25 at Davidson.
UA continued its quest for a second consecutive Ohio Tennis Coaches Association championship May 14 when it played Dublin Jerome in a district semifinal. The winner will play Coffman or New Albany in a district final on a date to be announced.
The Bears entered the match with a 13-2 overall record.
Lacrosse teams win league championships
The boys and girls lacrosse teams each clinched OCC-Buckeye championships last week.
The boys finished OCC-Buckeye play at 6-0 with a 10-3 win over Worthington Kilbourne on May 8. UA outscored its league opponents 72-17 while finishing ahead of Kilbourne (4-1), Dublin Jerome (3-2), Thomas Worthington (3-3), Coffman (2-3), Davidson (1-4) and Dublin Scioto (0-6).
Coffman, Davidson, Jerome and Kilbourne each entered the week with one league game left.
UA won the A bracket championship in the Midwest Scholastic Lacrosse Coaches Association Tournament earlier this month and will participate this weekend in the North American Lacrosse Invitational at Bloomfield Hills (Mich.) Brother Rice.
The Bears, who are 13-1 overall, play Culver (Ind.) Academy on Saturday, May 18, and Brother Rice or Kleinburg (Ontario) Hill Academy in the consolation or championship game Sunday, May 19, which is the day the Division I Central Region tournament draw will be held.
UA defeated Brother Rice 9-4 in the MSLCA final May 4.
The girls team concluded an undefeated OCC-Buckeye season by beating Thomas 17-6 on May 7.
UA went 5-0 in the league play but had a few scares along the way, as it edged Kilbourne 15-14 on April 11 and had to overcome a four-goal deficit in the final 12 minutes to beat New Albany 18-17 on May 1. But the Bears won their other league games handily, routing Hilliard Darby 17-0 on April 25 and Coffman 21-8 on May 4, to finish ahead of New Albany (4-1), Kilbourne (3-2), Thomas (2-3), Coffman (1-4) and Darby (0-5).
Girls coach Wendy Pinta said the title wasn't won easily.
"We've really struggled with a lot of injuries. We're still coming off some of them," she said. "We're still moving kids around. A lot of who we have in is based on who is fresh, who's ready and who we're facing. We have a few defensive players (seniors Macauley Mikes and Nicole Stines) who we can switch in and out of the midfield, (and) we have a deep bench. Each kid has developed their role for themselves."
UA, which closed the regular season 11-2 overall and earned the top seed in the Division I South/Central Region tournament, began its postseason at home May 15 against Gahanna or Marysville.
The winner will play host to Cincinnati St. Ursula, Darby, Pickerington North or Watterson in a regional semifinal Monday, May 20, with the semifinal winner playing host to Centerville, Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame, Coffman, Hilliard Bradley, Springboro or Thomas in a regional final May 23.
The Bears did not play any of the potential regional opponents who aren't in their league during the regular season.
Baseball team hopes to prosper
Winners of seven of its final 10 regular-season games, the baseball team was seeded 26th in the Division I district tournament and defeated 23rd-seeded Bradley 6-4 in the first round May 13.
The Bears visited 15th-seeded Westerville South in the second round May 15. The winner will play sixth-seeded Gahanna or 41st-seeded Westland in a district semifinal Monday, May 20, at Grove City.
The semifinal winner will play second-seeded Olentangy Orange, 11th-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley, 17th-seeded Zanesville or 36th-seeded Kilbourne in a district final Wednesday, May 22, at Ohio Dominican University.
The district champion advances to a regional semifinal May 30 at Coffman.
The Bears were 13-14 overall before May 15 and finished 8-6 in the OCC-Central.
Softball team dealing with busy schedule
The softball team was seeded 23rd for the Division I district tournament and opened against 28th-seeded New Albany on May 14.
The game was the Bears' seventh in eight days.
The first-round winner will visit fifth-seeded Orange in the second round Thursday, May 16, and that winner will play 11th-seeded Westerville Central, 15th-seeded Chillicothe, 20th-seeded Jerome or 38th-seeded Reynoldsburg in a district semifinal Tuesday, May 21, at Pickerington North.
The semifinal winner will play in a district final May 25 at Pickerington Central.
UA, which defeated Westland 9-2 on May 13 to improve to 11-14 overall and finish 8-6 in the OCC-Central, did not play Orange or any of its possible district semifinal opponents during the regular season.
Track and field teams prepare for postseason
After their annual Larkin/Crosten Invitational on May 10 was canceled because of rain, the track and field teams got extra time to prepare for the OCC-Central meet Thursday, May 16, and Saturday, May 18, at Thomas Worthington.
The Bears then will compete the Division I, district 3 meet next week at Darby. The meet begins Wednesday, May 22, with field events, continues May 23 with running event preliminaries and concludes May 25 with running event finals.
The top four finishers in each district event advance to the regional meet May 29 and 31 at Pickerington North.
Season ends for volleyball team
The boys volleyball team's season ended with a 25-18, 25-17, 25-16 loss to second-seeded Gahanna in the first round of the Division I East Region tournament May 11 at Westerville South.
UA finished 4-14 overall.
"Passing was our downfall. We had some good rallies," said coach Matt Wion, who completed his fourth season leading the program.
"When we played good, we played great. We just got buried in some serve-receive and passing errors."
UA went 2-8 in the OCC-Ohio to place fifth behind Darby (10-0), Bradley (7-3), Davidson (7-3) and Coffman (3-7) and ahead of Thomas Worthington (1-9).
The Bears lose six seniors in Derrick Galantowicz (setter), J.B. Gauch (middle hitter), Josh Jackson (middle hitter), Paul Linville (right-side hitter/outside hitter), Matt Warner (defensive special-ist/right-side hitter) and Max Zambito (outside hitter).
Linville was named second-team all-league and Jackson was honorable mention all-league.
Expected to return are juniors Harrison Chiles (outside hitter), Nate Jones (middle hitter), Carson Showe (outside hitter) and Eddie Simpson (defensive specialist), sophomores Joe Bevan (middle hitter/right-side hitter), Garrett Jones (defensive specialist) and Gabe Orr (outside hitter) and freshman Harrison Jackson (outside hitter).