Watterson High School boys tennis coach Barb Woods was disappointed when only 13 athletes joined her program this season.

Watterson High School boys tennis coach Barb Woods was disappointed when only 13 athletes joined her program this season.

Regardless, the 19th-year coach is expecting her varsity team to be even more competitive than it was last season when it finished 12-7 in dual matches and captured the CCL title.

Woods' optimism stems from the fact that Watterson returns six of its top seven players from a year ago in seniors Eric Brunton, Aaron Casares, Jared Clifton, Chris Diaz and Danny Yersavich and sophomore Ryan Bibo.

Diaz, who went 31-0 last season en route to winning the Division II state singles title, has returned to play first singles, and Casares has returned at second singles after going 8-5 last season.

Bibo and Clifton are vying to play third singles.

Also on the team is senior Shawn Eckert.

"This is the lowest number of players we've ever had, but the kids have a lot of varsity experience and they blend very well together," Woods said. "Chris and Aaron are both playing even better than last year, and Ryan Bibo has made a lot of strides, too."

Watterson went 5-0 in the CCL a year ago, finishing ahead of DeSales (4-1), St. Charles (2-2), Hartley (2-3), Worthington Christian (1-3) and Ready (0-5).

Worthington Christian is no longer in the CCL.

"We're aiming for another CCL title and we're probably the favorite to win it again because of who we have back," Woods said.

Last season, five Eagles placed in the top four in the sectional at Columbus Academy to advance to district, led by Diaz, who won his first four matches by scores of 6-0, 6-0 before beating Wellington's Ian Wagner 6-0, 6-1 in the final. Watterson's third-seeded doubles team of Casares and graduate Enzo Milano went 4-1 to place third, and the fourth-seeded team of Clifton and 2010 graduate Ben Heigel went 2-2 to place fourth.

Diaz breezed his way to a 3-0 record at the district, which was held at both Wickertree and Gahanna, beating Wagner 6-0, 6-1 in the final.

Only the top two placers qualified for state and both of Watterson's doubles teams fell short. Casares and Milano went 1-1, and Clifton and Heigel went 0-1.

Diaz then went 4-0 in the state tournament at Ohio State, beating defending Division II state champion Alex Fritz of Cincinnati Country Day 6-3, 6-2 in the final.

Diaz, who didn't lose a set last season, has a 62-1 career record in singles matches and has won a team-record 62 consecutive singles matches. He also won the Division I state doubles title with his older brother Philip in 2008 and finished second in the Division I state doubles tournament with Philip in 2009.

"Chris is definitely the best player I've ever coached," Woods said. "He's probably the strongest player in Columbus, Division I or II, and he's still totally focused."

•The boys lacrosse team, which finished 10-7 last year after losing to Granville 9-3 in the first round of the Division II Central regional tournament, opened March 26 with a 9-4 loss to Hilliard Bradley and lost to Olentangy Liberty 19-5 on March 28.

Only one starter has returned in junior attacker Anthony Melaragno.

"We have a number of varsity players returning, even though only one of them was a starter last year," third-year coach Norman Deena said. "We have the largest freshman class that we've had since I've been here with 17 freshmen boys, and a lot of those kids are coming in with varsity experience because of our Catholic school feeder program, the Columbus Saints."

First-year starters for the Eagles are seniors Chris Cunningham (goalkeeper) and Tyler Muraski (defender), juniors Mario Dean (midfielder), Michael O'Connell (defender), Matt Rossi (midfielder) and Jacob Wehrly (defender), and sophomores Reed Abahazie (attacker), Wyatt Applegate (midfielder) and Eddie Passen (attacker).

Rounding out the roster are seniors A.J. English (midfielder) and Tommy Glace (midfielder), junior Clayton Preston (defender), sophomores Patrick Bookman (midfielder), Brian Bunner (midfielder), Matt Foley (attacker), Danny O'Brien (midfielder) and Adam Thomas (defender), and freshmen Eli Kirk (midfielder), Patrick Pirrmann (attacker), Brendan Ryan (attacker), Austin Schlosser (goalkeeper), Brayden Stellar (midfielder), Ryan Urquhart (midfielder) and Cullen Willet (defender).

"We may have some growing pains with so many new starters, but we will learn from those experiences and get better," Deena said. "Our goals are to improve upon our record from last year and to go a little further in the tournament, even though we're a young team, because we have some good athletes on this team."