The New Albany High School boys tennis team measures itself not so much in league play, butin the OTCA Division I tournament.

The New Albany High School boys tennis team measures itself not so much in league play, butin the OTCA Division I tournament.

The Eagles hardly have been challenged in the OCC-Capital Division since joining the league last season, but they have yet to earn a state title as a team. Their jump to Division I this season after previously being in Division II is expected to make that feat even more difficult, as the depth in Division I means each of the last four rounds will pit the Eagles -- should they continue to win -- against an elite team.

New Albany played Reynoldsburg in the second round last Tuesday, with the winner to face Worthington Kilbourne or Olentangy Liberty in a district semifinal that must be played by May 12.

"Kilbourne, they're extremely deep and they have a lot of really good players," sophomore Riyad Bennoui said. "They can pretty much do anything with their lineup, and I'm sure they'll try to confuse us."

New Albany also is in the midst of the toughest stretch on its schedule. It played Upper Arlington last Tuesday, and it has matches against Hilliard Davidson (Friday) and Columbus Academy (Tuesday) in the next week. Last season, UA was fourth in the state in Division I and Academy lost in the state final in Division II.

Coach Andy Sinclair considers Davidson one of the contenders from this region in the Division I tournament.

Before playing UA last Tuesday, New Albany was 10-1 overall. It also is 3-0 in the OCC-Capital. The Eagles have not lost a set in league play since joining the OCC-Capital.

"I think we've had a real successful season so far," Sinclair said. "We've got a couple real tough matches coming up. Expectations are high, but so far things are going pretty well with the possible exception of (a 5-0 loss to Cincinnati St. Xavier on April 19)."

The Eagles had little trouble beating Liberty 5-0 on April 10, but they had one of their toughest tests when they played Kilbourne on April 21. Kilbourne took the third-singles and second-doubles courts, but the strength at the top of the Eagles' lineup was enough to carry them to a 3-2 win. Peter Kobelt beat Kevin Metka 6-3, 6-4 at first singles, John Buell defeated Jonny Price 6-1, 6-1 at second singles and Bennoui and Skyler Engel beat Colin Noble and Nick Kowalzyk 7-5, 6-1 at first doubles.

Kilbourne, which lost to UA 3-0 in a regional semifinal last season, was 7-3 overall after beating Davidson 4-1 last Monday.

Sinclair said most of the teams the Eagles will face from here on out are balanced, and because of that, his team could face any number of lineups. However, the Eagles also have enough depth to shift their lineup. Bennoui and Engel have played first doubles most of the season, but both are capable of moving to singles.

Bennoui played third singles most of last season. In a 5-0 win over Dublin Scioto on April 24, he played first singles.

Buell, typically the second-singles player, showed enough doubles prowess to win the second flight title with Bennoui in the Davidson Doubles Classic on April 19.

Kobelt has been consistent at first singles, freshman Ari Richman typically has played third singles and senior Brian Williams and sophomore Ryan McNutt have started most matches at second doubles. However, freshman Sam Romanoff and sophomores Dylan Kelly, Nate Williams and Sage Engel have seen a good deal of action in the lineup recently as well.

"We're kind of set on our lineup," Sinclair said. "We could definitely come up with maybe a couple of stronger doubles teams or go with a little different lineup at second and third singles, but it just depends on who we're playing and what their lineup looks like.

"We like to think we can just put our strongest three or so players out there and match up with anybody."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedule for the New Albany boys tennis team:

April 15 -- Defeated Watterson 4-1

April 16 -- Def. Pickerington North 5-0

*April 17 -- Def. Franklin Heights 5-0. The Eagles only lost three games as a team.

April 19 -- Finished first in Hilliard Doubles Invitational with 31 points. Peter Kobelt and Skyler Engel finished second in the first flight, Riyad Bennoui and John Buell won the second flight and Sam Romanoff and Brian Williams won the third flight.

April 21 -- Def. Worthington Kilbourne 3-2. Kobelt beat Kevin Metka 6-3, 6-4 at first singles, Buell beat Jonny Price 6-1, 6-1 at second singles and Engel and Bennoui beat Colin Noble and Nick Kowalzyk 7-5, 6-1 at first doubles.

*April 24 -- Def. Dublin Scioto 5-0

Last Tuesday -- Played Upper Arlington

Last Wednesday -- Played Reynoldsburg in second round of the OTCA Tournament

*Today -- Home vs. Watkins Memorial. The Eagles beat Watkins Memorial 5-0 last season.

Friday -- At Hilliard Davidson

*Tuesday -- At Big Walnut. New Albany beat Big Walnut 5-0 last season.

Wednesday -- At Columbus Academy. The Eagles lost to Academy 4-1 last season.

Of note: The Eagles were 10-1 overall before last Tuesday and are 3-0 in the OCC-Capital.

*OCC-Capital match