Given that the New Albany High School boys tennis team returns many of the top contributors to perhaps the best two-year stretch in program history, coach Marc Thomas sees no reason the Eagles cannot tack on a third successful season in a row.
At the same time, one team rule is that such expectations will go unspoken for the time being.
"This team will be different from last year because of who we graduated, but we're still strong at singles and have a lot of new faces at doubles," said Thomas, who is in his sixth season. "We're a really good team top to bottom, and those were the two best seasons we've ever had here. We want to build off that.
"The kids are ready to work. They know we haven't earned anything yet."
Two-time Division I state placers Robert Cash and Nathan Jose, both juniors, lead a team that has finished third and second, respectively, each of the past two years in the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I state tournament and is 32-5 in dual matches in that time. Cash was fourth at state in singles as a sophomore, Jose and 2017 graduate Graeme Green were fourth in doubles last year, and Cash and Jose were third in doubles as freshmen.
The Eagles were 2-0 before playing St. Charles on April 9, coming off a 5-0 sweep of visiting Newark in the season and OCC-Capital Division opener April 5 and a 3-2 victory over Cincinnati Sycamore the next day at Racquet Club of Columbus.
New Albany went 15-3 overall and 5-0 in the league last year, losing 3-0 to Hunting Valley University School in the OTCA Division I state championship match.
Cash won the United States Tennis Association's boys 18-year-old doubles national championship with J.J. Mercer of Huntington, West Virginia, in February.
"I've grown into my body more and I think I'm a lot better all-around with my game," said Cash, who said he is two inches taller than last season and now stands 6-foot-2, 165 pounds. "I think I'm more fundamentally sound and I'm healthy. When I hit my big growth spurt, I had some back issues, but I hope I'm past those. I'm stronger now, too. I'll be happy with wherever (Thomas) puts me (in the lineup)."
Cash and Jose are expected to play first and second singles in some order during the regular season, but according to Thomas, the rest of the lineup will be fluid early in the year.
Rounding out the roster are seniors Evan Mitelman and Alex Wagman, juniors Dev Vasani and Ben Yan, sophomore Alek Jacoby and freshmen Devin Boyer and Ryan Mudre.
"We know we can count on Robert and Nathan at the top of the lineup. They will do a great job, and so will everybody else," Thomas said. "I'm not sure exactly where everybody will fit in just because we haven't played many matches yet. They have one motivation and that's 'what will make us better as a team?' Our guys, with all the success they've had, think more about the team than themselves."
New Albany entered the season with 12 consecutive OCC-Capital championships and, before an April 10 match against Big Walnut, were 72-0 in league matches since joining the OCC before the 2006-07 school year. Last year, the Eagles finished one match ahead of runner-up Big Walnut (4-1) in the league.
New Albany's originally scheduled opener April 3 at home against Reynoldsburg was canceled because of bad weather. Thomas said he did not expect it to be rescheduled, but added that the Eagles' postponed match April 4 at Pickerington North probably will be made up.
*April 5 -- vs. Newark
April 6 -- Cincinnati Sycamore at Racquet Club of Columbus
April 9 -- at St. Charles
*April 10 -- at Big Walnut
April 11 -- at Dublin Coffman
*April 12 -- vs. Groveport
*April 17 -- at Canal Winchester
April 18 -- vs. Gahanna
*April 19 -- vs. Franklin Heights
April 23 -- vs. Olentangy
April 26 -- at Dublin Jerome
April 27 -- vs. Cleveland St. Ignatius
April 28 -- New Albany Invitational
April 30 -- at Columbus Academy
May 7 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
May 8 -- vs. Wellington
May 14 -- at Upper Arlington