The placard commemorating Josh Cole and Jack Zelezny's Division I boys doubles state championship was hung at the Upper Arlington High School tennis courts last summer, but that isn't the first thing second-year coach Will Thieman wants his players to think of when they see Cole on or off the court.

"The biggest thing with (Cole) is his growth as an individual and his leadership," Thieman said. "He's matured and taken on a good leadership role. That is probably the biggest jump he's made. He's so good at tennis. That's something he's worked hard on and I've talked to him about being a good leader.

"I don't want guys to look up to him because he won the state. I want them to look up to him because he is always on time, he works hard, things like that."

Cole, a senior, will try to lead the Golden Bears at first singles a year after he and Zelezny, a 2017 graduate, gave the program its 18th doubles state championship and 24th state title overall.

UA, which has been represented in 59 consecutive state tournaments, was 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the OCC-Central Division before an April 10 match against Hilliard Davidson.

The Bears opened April 5 with a 5-0 league win at Central Crossing and beat Cincinnati Country Day 4-1 the next day in their home opener and Bexley 5-0 on April 9.

Cole passed up the chance to vacation during spring break in favor of playing five hours per day for a week at Smith Stearns Tennis Academy in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

"It was a struggle the first couple days, but I got the hang of it. I just hit a lot of balls, which I think will pay off," Cole said. "A year ago, I wasn't very consistent with my backhand. I am trying to become more of a complete player because the jump from second singles to first singles is very high, especially in central Ohio. I am looking forward to a challenging season. This (coming) summer, I might get recruited a little bit. We'll see."

Last season, the Bears finished 12-5 overall and 4-0 in the OCC-Central, winning their 35th league championship in a row as Dublin Coffman (3-1) was runner-up.

Sophomore Will Reynolds likely will play second singles, but the junior-heavy lineup is in flux beyond that.

Rounding out the roster are senior Elliot Jones, juniors Nick Gruss, Paige Kompa, Lance Li and Hunter Triplett and sophomores Emerson Dean and Nathan Yu.

Kompa and her sister, 2016 graduate Olivia Kompa, won the Division I girls doubles state championship in 2015.

Reynolds did not think that a limited number of preseason practices because of bad weather would negatively affect the team.

"We all basically practice all year, so when we come into the season, we're pretty well ready. It's just about getting the team together," Reynolds said. "We all mesh really well. With singles, it's fine because it's just you on the court. But with doubles, you just have to find who you work best with and play. We all move around to see who works best together."

Thieman had his players work independently, including attending clinics, as their schedules allowed in order to stay sharp.

"I remind them they're on varsity A not because of what they do in the two months of the high school season, but rather where they've developed throughout the years with all of their work," Thieman said.

"I've been around a lot of them, so I know their strengths and weaknesses. It's a work in progress. This isn't where we want to be in the snow right now, but it's where we'll be when it's 75, 80 degrees and sunny in late May. Hopefully, we'll be there at the end."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Schedule

*April 5 -- at Central Crossing

April 6 -- vs. Cincinnati Country Day

April 9 -- at Bexley

*April 10 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson

*April 17 -- at Marysville

*April 19 -- at Dublin Coffman

April 20 -- at Mason

April 21 -- at Cincinnati Sycamore

April 21 -- at Cincinnati Indian Hill

April 23 -- at Olentangy Orange

April 25 -- at Cincinnati St. Xavier

April 26 -- at St. Charles

April 30 -- vs. Wellington

May 1 -- vs. Columbus Academy

May 8 -- at Olentangy

May 14 -- vs. New Albany

*League contest