For the past 16 years, Westerville South High School boys tennis coach John Fill has organized the Bob Raica Memorial Tournament in memory of his longtime friend, an area tennis booster.
South, however, had never won the tournament -- until this season.
Led by their two doubles teams, the Wildcats finished first (32 points) in the eight-team tournament April 27.
Westerville North was second (25), followed by Lancaster (22), Rocky River (21), Lyndhurst Brush (18), Groveport (13), Newark (5) and Westerville Central (3).
"This is great for the team," Fill said. "We have good depth and that's what pulled us through. This is like something off my back."
Matches were held at all three Westerville high schools, with the finals played at South.
The Wildcats' two doubles teams each improved to 13-0 on the season.
In the finals, juniors Ian Liao and Ben Potts defeated Rocky River's Mike Ittu and Ryan McDermott 7-5, 6-1. Before playing Central on April 30, Liao and Potts had yet to lose a set this season.
"This is really nice," Potts said of the team title. "We came out and we knew we had a shot to do it and we played good tennis. We still have room to grow."
Juniors Grant Augenstein and Cody Rannebarger also remained undefeated after rallying to defeat North's Andy Meyer and Chad Strahine 1-6, 6-3, 7-6. The loss in the first set was the first this season for the two Wildcats.
South junior David Hayman defeated Groveport's Forrest Baldwin 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in the final at first singles.
South freshman Spencer Clark opened the finals by defeating North's Nick Pannell 6-2, 6-2 at third singles.
South junior Ross Larkins was fourth at second singles.
The Wildcats entered the week 10-2 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Cardinal Division, with the league loss coming against Worthington Kilbourne 3-2 on April 9.
South visits North on Tuesday, May 7.
Last season, the Wildcats defeated the Warriors 5-0.
"As good as we are, we can improve a lot," Fill said.
North improving as season continues
After beginning the season 0-5, North won its first two matches, defeating Central 5-0 on April 23 and Grove City 3-2 on April 25.
Sophomore Sam Payne also reached the finals at second singles in the Raica tournament before losing to Lancaster's Jaydeep Singh 6-4, 6-4.
"I'm happy with second," coach C.J. Simmons said of his team's finish in the tournament.
Simmons hopes his team's improvement continues as the postseason nears.
"We're starting to play better," he said. "We're starting to get our groove with stuff. We're starting to get our confidence back. We started off with a lot of tough teams and now we're really starting to get grooved in and those tough teams at the beginning of the season helped us get better."
Young Central team gaining experience
After losing its top 13 players from last year to graduation, Central continues to gain valuable court time.
The Warhawks rebounded from their loss to North to defeat DeSales 3-2 on April 25.
Winners were Jimmy D'Amico 6-3, 7-5 at first singles, Andrew McKnight 6-2, 7-5 at second singles and Ana Borish 6-1, 6-1 at third singles.
"The reality is every team is different," coach Brian Arnett said. "It's not fair to these kids to compare them to last year's team. That team was pretty special with a lot of kids who had been around a long time and put a lot of work into it. These kids are learning. We're way better than we were even (four) weeks ago. That's how we're going to measure it."