Despite losing several key players, Columbus Academy boys tennis coach Jeff Warstler expects his team to again contend for the MSL-Cardinal/Ohio Division championship.

Despite losing several key players, Columbus Academy boys tennis coach Jeff Warstler expects his team to again contend for the MSL-Cardinal/Ohio Division championship.

He said the Vikings also might contend for a fourth consecutive Division II OTCA state team title if they progress throughout the season.

Academy opened March 28 with a 3-2 victory over Dayton Chaminade Julienne. Its next match is Thursday, March 31, as host to Cincinnati Sycamore.

"It's a good fortune, bad fortune," Warstler, in his eighth season, said of the program's expectations.

"The good part is you're vying for the top prize. The bad part is expectations tend to go through the roof and in a year like this where we're a little bit down, you have to evaluate things to the best of your ability and it all starts with let's try and win the MSL first then we start to focus on some of those other things."

Last season, the Vikings defeated Cincinnati Seven Hills 3-0 in the opening round of the state tournament and Cuyahoga Valley 3-0 for the title. Academy finished 20-5 overall.

The Vikings lost Eoghan Bahnson and Andrew Enslen to graduation, and junior Chad Buchanan transferred to Lexington High School. All three players had key roles last season.

Juniors Chris Perrini and Langston Hughes return and will serve as captains. The pair teamed to play doubles last season.

Also back are junior Dan Leathery and sophomore Abram Schottenstein, who played doubles last season at state.

Warstler said Perrini and Schottenstein are contending for first singles.

Warstler expects seniors Harsha Chandupatla and Sean Firouzian and sophomore Ezer Smith to complete the top seven.

Other contributors could be sophomore Randy Zhao and freshman Evan Alexander.

Last season, the Vikings won their fifth consecutive MSL-Ohio/Cardinal title, finishing 6-0 with 48 points. Bexley was second at 5-1 with 42 points.

Rounding out the standings were Granville (30 points), Grandview (20), Fisher Catholic (13), West Jefferson (7) and Whitehall (1).

Warstler said Bexley returns several players and is the team to beat in the league.

Academy will play host to Bexley on April 26.

"Bexley has to be considered the favorite," Warstler said. "I'm not saying it's impossible for us to beat them. We could, but I think they're a little bit better than us.

"I think the kids are aware that they're a little bit better than us. Being the hunter isn't the worst thing. We have to take this from a little different angle and try to come after them because on paper they are the best team. They are best Division II team in our district."

•The baseball team fell short of its goal of winning a district title last season, losing a Division III district final to Marion Pleasant 2-1.

The Vikings are hoping to win that title this season.

"Their goals are set to win the district and try to get out of the region," fourth-year coach Jim Collis said. "Whether we can do it or not, I don't know, but we'll see."

Academy opened by beating Gahanna Christian 27-2 in five innings on March 28.

Seniors Kennedy Clark (OF), Jon Dillon (P/INF) and Nick Sergakis (P/INF/OF) and juniors Zach Ratcliff (INF) and R.J. Watters (utility player) are expected to lead the Vikings.

Last season, Sergakis batted a team-high .463 with 29 RBI, followed by Watters (.456, 21 RBI), Ratcliff (.404, 33 RBI) and Clark (.338, 11 RBI).

On the mound, Sergakis went 4-3 with a 2.74 ERA, 57 strikeouts and 29 walks in 46 innings. Dillon was 4-1 with a 3.06 ERA in 36 2/3 innings.

Sergakis was first-team all-MSL and first-team all-district, Ratcliff was first-team all-conference and second-team all-district, Watters was second-team all-conference and honorable mention all-district, and Clark and Dillon were honorable mention all-league.

Sergakis signed a letter of intent Nov. 17 to play baseball at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C.

Other players looking to contribute include seniors Samir Saxena (1B), Chris Timko (INF) and Joey Vara (C/OF) and juniors Steve Casey (P/OF), James Frye (C/1B) and Matt Tamarkin (OF/2B).

The Vikings lost five seniors to graduation, including Ben Nicola who batted .309 with 20 RBI and was honorable mention all-MSL.

Last season, the Vikings finished 19-8 overall and tied Granville for third in the MSL-Ohio at 8-6, behind Lakewood (13-1) and Heath (10-4) and ahead of Bexley (7-7), Licking Valley (6-8), Newark Catholic (4-10) and Whitehall (0-14).

"It's a really competitive league," Collis said. "Baseball in this league is probably the toughest sport. You have Heath and Lakewood who are perennial powers every year. You have Granville who has always been good. They have good players. I would like to think that we have a chance. One of our goals this year is going to be to win the league, but it's a very competitive league baseball-wise."