A strong start to the season only served to support what Olentangy High School boys tennis coach Jeff Luxenburger has thought about his team for some time.
"I always have high expectations for our team, as I see how talented and hardworking these guys are every day at practice. We also have a veteran team that should be able to perform well under match pressure," said Luxenburger, who is in his sixth season. "We're loaded with seniors this year, and I'm so excited to have so much experience and leadership on the courts."
With juniors Stu Brdicka and Alex Konstan anchoring the lineup at first and second singles, respectively, the Braves were 4-0 before their OCC-Buckeye Division opener at Westerville North on April 11.
Brdicka fell a win short of his second consecutive Division I state tournament as a sophomore, going 1-1 at district. He was Olentangy's only district qualifier last year.
The Braves opened with two shutout wins, defeating Pickerington North 5-0 on March 28 and Lancaster by the same score March 29. They then topped Upper Arlington's B team 3-2 on April 4 and beat Dublin Coffman 3-2 on April 10.
Olentangy has six seniors in Abbas Doctor, Pradhit Gosula, Nishant Medicharla, Anish Senthilkumar, Alex Ulry and Raja Vaze, and one freshman in Ayush Sunkad.
Vaze has played third singles early. Gosula, Medicharla, Sunkad and Ulry have played doubles.
"Our lineup will probably be changing throughout the season, as I've got a lot of guys who can excel in singles or doubles," Luxenburger said. "I'm always trying to find the right combination of players who work well together on the doubles courts, and that can be a work in progress. I look forward to see how we can adapt this year to put the best teams on the court that we can."
Olentangy's originally scheduled league opener April 6 against Westerville South was postponed because of bad weather.
The Braves were 11-7 overall and 4-3 in the OCC-Capital last year, fourth behind champion New Albany (7-0).
Highlights of Olentangy's non-league schedule include matches against perennial powers Dublin Coffman, Dublin Jerome and St. Charles.
"I measure our success by how we perform as a team and how we improve throughout the season," Luxenburger said. "I am so lucky to coach the caliber of guys that I do at. These guys respect their teammates so much that I feel like we always do a great job of handling adversity together. I'm always inspired by how these guys push each other to improve every day, and if we can continue that tradition this year, it'll be a successful season."
Depth to guide
boys track team
Boys track and field coach Brad Komenda considers himself "lucky" to have depth in almost every area this season as Olentangy seeks to increase its Division I state meet representation.
The Braves return their only state qualifier from a year ago in senior Kyle Brookshire, who was eighth in the pole vault (14 feet, 6 inches), and four of their five individual OCC-Capital champions.
"This is probably the deepest we've been in my time here," said Komenda, who is in his eighth season. "We're still relatively young in sprints, but from distance to field events, we're lucky to have as many kids back as we do. We have a lot of guys we can look to for leadership. ...
"If we stay healthy and work hard, we're excited to see what can happen."
Distance runner Anthony Sasso hopes to continue a strong senior year that already has seen him finish 45th in the state cross country meet and second in the 800 meters (1 minute, 56.92 seconds) in the indoor state meet March 4 at the University of Akron. Other distance runners include seniors Zach Balthaser and Alex Garner and juniors Jeremy Kendle and Cullen Sainey.
"(Sasso) has looked very good in workouts," Komenda said. "So has Zach. They'll be our top two 800 and (1,600) guys. I can actually use them anywhere from the 400 to the 3,200 and they'll be fine. They're just talented guys."
Returning league champions are Balthaser (1,600), Brookshire (pole vault), junior Jeremy Kendle (400), Sasso (800) and the 3,200 relay of Balthaser, senior Grant Maddox, Kendale and Sasso.
"Kyle could be one of the top vaulters in central Ohio again," Komenda said.
Other contributors should include seniors Matt Gray (throws), Jayden Hill (sprints) and Nick Lawless (throws), juniors Mahumud Kabba (pole vault), Jaden Konadu (hurdles), Joel Michael (sprints) and Trey Simpson (sprints, jumps), sophomores DeAnte Ables (sprints) and Zach Shibley (sprints) and freshmen Clayton Atkinson (hurdles), Israel Foston (sprints) and Ben Wheeler (hurdles).
Olentangy opened with a 77-60 win at Buckeye Valley on April 4. Michael took the 100 (11.5) and 200 (23.6) to lead five individual winners and two first-place relays.
for girls track team
The girls track team returns its only state qualifier in junior Siobhan Szerencsits, who tied for eighth in the pole vault and has experience in almost every area.
Szerencsits vaulted 11-6 at state and exceeded that height by 15 inches in the indoor state meet, in which she finished second. Senior Madeline Barnes was seventh (12-3) in the same event.
Both also are sprinters.
"(Barnes and Szerencsits) have been competing all winter in pole vault and have already improved their jumps from last season by over a foot each," fourth-year coach Jen Sosa said.
"I foresee a lot of improvements coming from our younger girls that have improved their strength over the last year. ... We also have a very large group of about 50 freshmen, so it will be interesting to see how our new faces contribute as well."
Olentangy opened with a 110-27 win at Buckeye Valley.
Among the Braves' winners were Barnes in the pole vault (12-0), junior Melina Endsley in the 800 (2:38.8) and 1,600 (5:49.3), junior Holly Nation in the 200 (27.8), 400 (1:02.6) and high jump (5-4) and senior Sarah Schneider in the discus (86-10) and shot put (29-1 1/2).
Barnes (pole vault) and Nation (high jump) were regional qualifiers last year.
Olentangy also returns an individual OCC-Capital champion in sophomore Lex Brookshire (300 hurdles) as well as Brookshire, Endsley and junior Katie Slyh from the league-champion 3,200 relay.
"We have some great leaders and role models on our team in our upperclassmen and they've done a great job so far mentoring the younger girls and helping make sure that everyone is focused and prepared," Sosa said.
Other expected contributors include seniors Mattee Bonanno (sprints), Alex Cardi (sprints), Tasia Christian (throws), Ireland Fallona (sprints), Morgan McCandless (sprints), Ashley Schirtzinger (long jump) and Emerson Woerner (hurdles), junior Emily Suchan (throws), sophomores Muskan Arora (hurdles, sprints), Ashley Euans (throws), Katie Geniusz (sprints, throws) and Brooke Lam (sprints) and freshman Meghan Boggess (distance, middle distance).
March 28 -- vs. Pickerington North
March 29 -- at Lancaster
April 4 -- at Upper Arlington B
*April 6 -- vs. Westerville South
April 10 -- at Dublin Coffman
*April 11 -- at Westerville North
April 12 -- at St. Charles
*April 13 -- vs. Westerville Central
*April 18 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
April 19 -- vs. Pickerington Central
*April 20 -- at Olentangy Liberty
April 21 -- Hilliard Bradley Doubles Tournament
April 25 -- at Hilliard Darby
April 27 -- vs. Columbus Academy
May 1 -- at Wellington
May 2 -- vs. Bexley
May 3 -- at Hilliard Davidson
May 4 -- at Hilliard Bradley
May 8 -- vs. Dublin Jerome
May 9 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
TRACK & FIELD
April 4 -- at Buckeye Valley
April 7 -- Panther Invitational at Hilliard Darby
April 12 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
April 15 -- Dublin Classic at Dublin Coffman
April 19 -- vs. Delaware
April 21 -- Freedom Relays at Olentangy Liberty
April 28 -- Olentangy Invitational at home
May 5 -- Delaware County Elite 8 at Olentangy Orange
May 11, 13 -- OCC-Buckeye meet at Olentangy Orange
Below are the coming schedules for the Olentangy baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball and boys volleyball teams:
April 14 -- Home vs. Pickerington Central
April 15 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson
*April 17 -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange
*April 19 -- At Orange
*April 13 -- At Orange
*April 18 -- Home vs. New Albany
*April 13 -- Home vs. Orange
*April 18 -- At New Albany
*April 13 -- At Westerville North
*April 17 -- Home vs. Westerville Central
April 18 -- Home vs. Watterson
*April 19 -- Home vs. Orange
*April 18 -- At Olentangy Liberty