Worthington Kilbourne High School junior Kevin Metka is not the same tennis player he used to be.

Worthington Kilbourne High School junior Kevin Metka is not the same tennis player he used to be.

Last season, Metka teamed with 2009 graduate Jonny Price to capture the Division I state doubles championship with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Watterson's Chris Diaz and Philip Diaz in the final. This year, Metka returns as a more confident player.

Kilbourne plays host to Thomas Worthington today in the first round of the Division I OTCA team tournament.

"What Kevin gained from last year is a lot of confidence," said coach Steve Metzmaier, whose team finished 9-3 overall last season and placed second in the OCC-Central Division. "He knows now what is possible and he's been working harder this year."

Dublin Coffman coach David Drees also is aware Metka's potential, calling him "the best player in the city."

Metka, who was 34-2 at first singles last year and won the OCC-Central first-singles title, is the front-runner to play first singles. Junior Brian Aguirre, who was part of a first-doubles duo that went 14-8 last year, could replace Price at second singles. Price was 32-4 a year ago.

Metzmaier is not sure what he has beyond that. Seniors David Melvin and Jonathan Ringel, juniors Roger Juang, Sam Lazaroff and Andrew Zuk, sophomores Ryan Wiet and Jonathan Wilkinson and freshman Jack Klein are all contending for starting spots.

"We have a whole different team than we had a year ago," Metzmaier said. "We lost three good players with Jonny, Chris Yoon and Cory Marshall all graduating. We're basically an inexperienced team."

Kilbourne will have to depend on its depth if it is to catch Upper Arlington in the OCC-Central. The Golden Bears won the league title at 7-0 with 73 points, followed by Kilbourne (6-1, 68), Dublin Coffman (5-2, 54), Thomas (4-3, 44), Hilliard Davidson (3-4, 43), Hilliard Darby (2-5, 18), Westland (0-7, 11) and Central Crossing (1-6, 7).

UA, which finished fourth in the OTCA Division I state team tournament last year, lost five players to graduation, including James Melvin, who placed fourth at state in doubles with junior Billy Weldon. Aside from Metka and Weldon, the only other returnee in the OCC-Central who qualified for state last year was Coffman sophomore Hiromi Nakayama, who lost in the first round.

"In the past, we've had some strong battles in the OCC," Metzmaier said. "Coffman, Thomas and UA are going to be strong this year."

•With Thomas junior Casey Cempre potentially playing Metka at first singles, the match today between the Cardinals and Wolves could be a preview of two of the top singles players in the OCC-Central.

Cempre had a breakout season last year in his first season at first singles. He finished 14-9 overall, placing third in the OCC-Central and winning a sectional title at Davidson with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win over St. Charles' Kyle Gerber.

"The thing that stands out about last year was the development of Casey," coach Tyler Stephen said. "He understands now what it takes to be a top-notch player in our conference, and it certainly motivated him in the offseason."

The Cardinals could be ready to make a move upward in the OCC-Central standings after finishing 12-5 overall last year. Thomas lost only one player to graduation in Nick Wortman, who was part of a first-doubles duo that finished 12-13 last year.

Competing for the other two singles spots are juniors David Edison (13-13 last year), Harrison Chang (15-8) and Mark Evans (14-8).

At the OCC-Central tournament, Edison and Chang placed fifth at second and third singles, respectively, and Wortman and Evans placed fourth at first doubles.

The Cardinals also return senior Chris Shumaker and junior Joey Wortman (15-8). Rounding out the team are juniors Karthik Hari, Matt Osesberg and Matt Sisco and sophomore Jonathan Crank.

Stephen hopes his team's depth will be enough to withstand the OCC-Central.

"They've all done the work they had to do," he said. "They saw all the names who were coming back and graduating and they want to be good. We need to think less about our opponents and more about what we need to do."

At a glance


KILBOURNE

Coach: Steve Metzmaier, 11th season Next match: Thursday vs. Thomas Key players: Brian Aguirre, David Melvin, Kevin Metka and Jonathan Ringel

SCHEDULE

March 30 at Pickerington North *March 31 vs. Hilliard Darby April 1 vs. Thomas Worthington *April 13 at Westland April 16 vs. Cincinnati Seven Hills April 17 at Hilliard Doubles Classic (Davidson) April 19 at New Albany *April 20 vs. Hilliard Davidson April 22 at Central Crossing April 24 at Worthington Cup (Thomas) April 26 at St. Charles *April 27 at Dublin Coffman April 28 vs. Olentangy Liberty *April 29 at Upper Arlington May 3 at Watterson *May 4 vs. Thomas May 5 vs. Pickerington Central May 6 vs. Wellington *May 8 at OCC-Central tournament May 11 vs. Bexley *OCC-Central match April 28 at Bexley *May 4 at Kilbourne May 5 vs. Watterson May 6 at Lancaster *May 8 at OCC-Central tournament May 10 at Lexington May 11 vs. Westerville North

*OCC-Central match

THOMAS

Coach: Tyler Stephen, second season Next match: Thursday at Kilbourne Key players: Casey Cempre, Harrison Chang, David Edison and Mark Evans

SCHEDULE

March 30 at Pickerington Central *March 31 vs. Upper Arlington April 1 at Kilbourne April 12 at Dublin Scioto *April 13 vs. Dublin Coffman *April 15 at Hilliard Davidson April 17 at Hilliard Doubles Classic (Davidson) *April 20 vs. Westland April 21 at Westerville Central *April 22 at Hilliard Darby April 23 vs. Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy April 24 Worthington Cup April 26 vs. Groveport *April 27 vs. Central Crossing

*OCC-Central match