If any members of the Pickerington High School Central girls tennis team were nervous that this would be the season their string of OCC-Ohio Division championships would come to an end, they weren't saying.

If any members of the Pickerington High School Central girls tennis team were nervous that this would be the season their string of OCC-Ohio Division championships would come to an end, they weren't saying.

All the Tigers were worried about was working no fewer than five new players into the lineup on the heels of graduating a six-member senior class that included Isis and Kyah Thomas, who were last year's Division I state runners-up in doubles.

Yet, at the end of the league season, Central again was in the only place in the standings it has known since joining the OCC-Ohio before the 2008-09 school year. A 5-0 win over Newark on Sept. 8 clinched the Tigers' eighth consecutive undefeated league title at 7-0. They were 10-2 overall before playing Olentangy on Sept. 16.

"We find a way," coach Kelli Rings said. "The OCC could have gone to any of three or four teams this year, but I think the girls felt like they had something to prove. The OCC (-Ohio championship), that's not something we are just going to give away. Somebody is going to have to win it from us."

It was not a cakewalk for Central, which eked out 3-2 wins over Pickerington North on Aug. 27 and Gahanna on Sept. 3, the latter of which was the Tigers' second-to-last league match. The Tigers won their other league matches by 5-0 or 4-1 scores, and finished ahead of Lancaster (6-1), Gahanna (5-2), North (4-3), Grove City (3-4), Newark (2-5), Reynoldsburg (1-6) and Groveport (0-7).

"I just went with the flow," said sophomore Margaret Gordon, who outdueled Jessie Weidner for the second singles spot early in the season and has stayed there ever since. "I had a feeling we would make it, but I never thought too much about it. I just took the same approach into every (match)."

Rings did the same with the lineup, which has featured junior Maddie Bechert at first singles, senior Sky Johnson at third singles, junior Rachel Terbovich and sophomore Jillian Stang at first doubles and Weidner and senior Sam Wurster at second doubles.

Bechert and Weidner were the only returnees.

"We all had known each other for a while, so by the time we were doing conditioning, we pretty much had our lineup set," Stang said. "(Terbovich), I love her. We play great together. We communicate really well. We are at about the same skill level, which is nice. She is amazing at the net and she has a killer serve. I am pretty good at placing the ball, and I know how to put it away. So does she."

Central has not lost a league match since Aug. 30, 2007, when it fell to Dublin Jerome 3-2 in OCC-Cardinal play.

"There is pressure," Bechert said. "But you try not to think about it and just do your best."

Panthers still mixing, matching lineup

Four 3-2 losses this season had North hovering just below the .500 mark before a Sept. 15 match against Hilliard Davidson, but it still finished in the upper half of the OCC-Ohio.

The Panthers dropped 3-2 decisions to Lancaster on Aug. 25, Central, Olentangy Orange on Sept. 9 and Upper Arlington's B team on Sept. 10. The losses to the Pioneers and Golden Bears followed a four-match winning streak and made North 5-7 overall before Sept. 15.

"We had some nice wins recently, (but) we've also had several 3-2 losses," coach Brian Hoff said. "Those were all matches that we feel like we could or should have won. 3-2 matches make or break your season. We just need to find a way to win these close matches."

Julia Robson has been a stalwart at first singles, ahead of a largely fluid lineup that has included Leah Hohnberger, Shivani Kothari, Carmen Moesle, Kenzie Norris and Anna Stanley at second and third singles. Those girls also have played doubles, along with Sreya Brahmandam and Maegan Lloyd.

"Julia has had some solid wins recently against good players. She's a hard worker and has a good attitude on the court," Hoff said. "We're still looking for the right combo of players to find a way to win three courts against solid opponents. We're still trying to find some consistency. We play well one day (and) bad the next."

North still is alive in the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I district tournament, having defeated Granville 4-1 in a second-round match Sept. 8. The Panthers will play Olentangy Liberty in a third-round match on a date to be determined.