With the core of his team back, Westerville Central High School boys tennis coach Brian Arnett expects the Warhawks to have another strong season.

With the core of his team back, Westerville Central High School boys tennis coach Brian Arnett expects the Warhawks to have another strong season.

Leading the way should be senior first-singles player Luke Buchanan, who last season became the first singles player from Central to qualify for the Division I district tournament.

Buchanan lost to Upper Arlington's Jeffrey Melvin 6-4, 6-3 in the first round at district to finish 20-6. He was second in the sectional tournament and third in the OCC-Cardinal Division tournament.

Also back is senior Mitra Patel, who played first doubles last season but is expected to move to second singles.

"We have a really solid team," Patel said. "We have mostly seniors coming back. We lost the one senior (in Blake Byrns who mostly played second singles), but besides him, we have a pretty strong team. Some of the underclassmen and other (former junior varsity) players are stepping up."

Senior Max Hart again is expected to play third singles.

"Looking at things right now, our singles seem to be the strength of team," said Arnett, who is in his ninth season. "With Luke being back and Mitra Patel moving to singles, he's playing really well. Max is back at three and he had a really good year last year, so we have a lot of experience back at singles. We're going to have to lean on them early on until our doubles come along a little bit."

Seniors Trevor Bartholomew and Kevin Page should play first doubles, while seniors Evan DiPangrazio and Grant Henck are vying to play second doubles.

Other players looking to make the starting lineup are senior A.J. Forquer and sophomore Jimmy D'Amico.

Last season, Central was 9-5 overall and in contention for a league title before settling for third place in the league tournament, finishing with 39 points and a 4-3 record. The Warhawks finished behind Dublin Jerome (77, 7-0) and Olentangy Liberty (51, 6-1) and ahead of Dublin Scioto (38, 5-2), Westerville South (19, 2-5), Westerville North (16, 3-4), Marysville (16, 1-6) and Olentangy (12, 0-7).

Central opens Tuesday, April 3, at North.

"The division is going to be really good," Arnett said. "Liberty and Jerome are always going to be good, and Scioto has a bunch (of players) back. North and South are going to be solid. Top to bottom, I think it's going to be as good as the league has been in several years."

South looking to exceed .500

South coach John Fill is optimistic thanks to the return of several key players, including senior Alex Potts.

"Alex has put a lot of time into this," Fill said. "He'll be a good first-singles player."

The remainder of the team is mainly underclassmen, led by sophomores David Hayman and Ross Larkins, who are competing to play second singles.

"We hope to go over .500 this year," Hayman said. "Last year, we were near .500 and we have six freshmen coming back as sophomores and Alex, our team captain, so we're really hoping that we can get more wins this year."

Sophomores Ian Liao and Ben Potts, Alex's brother, should play first doubles.

Junior Daniel Calvert and sophomore Cody Rannebarger are looking to play second doubles.

Other players looking to contribute are senior Logan Geyer, junior Brian Poland and sophomore Grant Augenstein.

"This is an enthusiastic team," said Fill, who is in his 36th season. "The bell rings at the end of school and they're out here within five minutes. They love tennis. They've been working hard."

After opening March 28 against Bluefield (Va.) Graham at Pipestem Resort State Park in West Virginia, the Wildcats play host Tuesday, April 3, to Scioto.

Last season, the Wildcats finished 8-10 overall.

"We know Central is strong," Fill said. "They have a lot of seniors, but we think we still might have a chance (in the OCC-Cardinal)."

South lost James Pettit to graduation. He played first singles for most of last season but paired with Alex Potts to play doubles at sectional.

Lindow leads North returnees

Leading the returnees for North is junior Xan Lindow, who is expected to play first singles for the second consecutive season.

"Xan has gotten stronger and bigger," said third-year coach C.J. Simmons, whose team opens Thursday, March 29, at Jerome. "He's gotten smarter out there. We're excited to see him play."

Senior Blake Brewer, who played second singles last season, has been competing with Lindow for first singles.

"Last year we didn't get too many new people," Brewer said. "Overall, I think we're going to have a better record than last year. We definitely want to beat South and Central. Those are the main two goals, and then the third one is to have a winning record and the last one is to have someone make it past sectionals."

Seniors Steve Smith and Matt Tweed and sophomore Nick Pennell have been competing to play third singles.

Junior Chad Strahine and sophomore Jimmy Evans, who played second doubles last season, are expected to play first doubles.

Junior Andy Meyer and freshman Sam Payne are contending for the second-doubles spot.

Last season, the Warriors finished 5-11 overall.

"Last year, we were a young team," Simmons said. "I had a sophomore (Lindow) at one singles. On the varsity team, we really only lost one player (Kevin Baum). Everybody is getting more experience, getting stronger. I'm hoping to see some of the younger guys stepping up."