Brian Hoff is used to coaching teams that have a target on their back, given that his Pickerington High School North boys tennis teams won four consecutive OCC-Ohio Division championships from 2012-15.
Now the Panthers' girls team is not only coming off a season in which it won its first league title and set a program record for wins, but also is seeking to follow up on advancing a player to the Division I state tournament for the first time.
Sophomore Cassie Alcala will try to build on sectional and district runner-up finishes and losing only three matches as a freshman, as the Panthers further try to solidify themselves as a league and area power.
North, which went 19-1 overall and 5-0 in the OCC-Ohio last season, opened Aug. 16 at home against Olentangy.
"Our returning varsity girls are much improved -- and they were pretty darn good last year," said Hoff, who is in his 15th season. "Last season, we definitely snuck up on some teams. That won't be the case this year. Teams know that we have a strong team returning and we will get everyone's best shot this year. We are looking forward to this challenge."
Alcala is among six sophomores that make up the majority of the roster, along with one junior and one freshman. According to Hoff, who is the only coach in team history, this is the first time the Panthers have not had a senior on varsity.
Alcala went 0-1 at state last year.
Sophomores Rhyan Cook and Kim Nguyen started at second and third singles, respectively, a year ago. Cook went 0-1 at district last year.
Rounding out the roster are junior Anna Stanley, sophomores Sophia Anderson, Maggie Haas and Jessica Scruggs and freshman Corrina Moesle, all of whom are vying for doubles spots.
"Anna and Maggie both will bring a lot of doubles experience with them," Hoff said. "We are looking for the right mix of players' strengths and chemistry."
North begins OCC-Ohio play Aug. 24 at Pickerington Central, the team it supplanted as league champion last season. Central, which won eight consecutive undefeated OCC-Ohio titles from 2008-15 and hadn't lost a league match since 2007, finished second to the Panthers at 4-1.
North also will seek its first Ohio Tennis Coaches Association district championship. The Panthers have a first-round bye in the district tournament and will play Gahanna or Olentangy on a date to be determined.
"The top goal is to defend our OCC title," Hoff said. "The girls are not satisfied or content with being one of the best teams in the area and the state. They want to be the best team in central Ohio (and it) will be a tremendous challenge for us to achieve this."
Boys golf team
Senior stalwarts Jack Kowalczyk and Josh Tasney return to lead the boys golf team, but third-year coach Steve Schill is concerned about developing depth further down the lineup.
Tasney has earned first-team all-league honors each of the past three seasons, including his freshman year at Reynoldsburg and the past two at North, and consistently was among the Panthers' top three scorers last year along with Kowalczyk and 2017 graduate Frank Jones, North's only representative in the Division I district tournament.
Sophomore Jacob Chadwick is the only other returnee.
"I feel very good about the top of our lineup, but after that, we need guys to step up," said Schill, whose team opened Aug. 4 by finishing fifth (317) of 15 teams in the Thomas Worthington Preview Invitational at Delaware Golf Club, behind champion Olentangy (303). "I told them this might be a season-by-committee until we find someone to step up and say, 'I want this job' (in the lineup). I am just looking for consistency. I don't like the rollercoaster of having a great round one day and a bad round the next."
Senior Henry Huland, juniors Danny Corrigan and Danny Heitmeyer and sophomore Tomasz Douangsy round out the roster. According to Schill, Corrigan and Heitmeyer each played in one varsity match last year.
North is pursuing its 13th consecutive league championship and is tied with Gahanna for first place halfway through the four-round OCC-Ohio tournament at 8-2.
In the first round Aug. 8 at Darby Creek, North shot a 317 to finish ahead of runner-up Central (322). Tasney shot a 75 and Chadwick a 79 to pace the Panthers.
The Panthers finished third (321) in the second round Aug. 14 at Apple Valley behind first-place Gahanna (316).
Tasney shot a 72 to lead North, which went 18-2 in the league tournament last year to finish ahead of runner-up Grove City (16-4). But for now, thoughts of another title are secondary for Schill.
"That will work itself out," he said. "I'm a little nervous at this point, just waiting to see how everything will go. Each of our guys has a job to do. Right now, it's baptism by fire."
leading girls golfers
The girls golf team didn't score as low as 15th-year coach Kitty McGrievy wanted early in the season, but she hopes her players will get a chance to catch their breath with only one match in a nine-day stretch after they take on Olentangy, Olentangy Liberty and Watterson on Thursday, Aug. 17, at Oakhaven.
"This has been like a marathon," McGrievy said. "(Our first week of the season,) we had a scramble on (July 31), then on (Aug. 1) an 18-hole tryout at Westchester, on (Aug. 2) an 18-hole tryout at Royal American and (Aug. 3) nine holes at Turnberry. Then we had our first tournament. About all we had time to do was get to a course, try out, go home and crash and then start over again.
"The week we start school, we have only one match. That's when I think we will make some strides."
Senior Caitlin Tasney and junior Zhanner Davis are the only two returnees from last year, when North went 26-2 in the four-round OCC-Ohio tournament and fell just short of its fifth consecutive league championship. Upper Arlington (27-1) won the title.
Tasney shot a 78 to lead the Panthers in their season-opening invitational Aug. 4 at Turnberry. Her younger sister, Cassie, added an 81 as North tied defending Division I state champion Olentangy Orange for seventh place (348) in the 18-team afternoon wave behind champion Centerville (319).
Rounding out the roster are senior Ally Perkins and sophomore Allyson Rosen.
"With Caitlin, it's (about) maturity. I see her walking the course very composed and knowing what she wants to do," McGrievy said. "The Tasneys worked on their golf game all summer. The other kids did some, but didn't play too many tournaments. When they play day after day, I expect them to be in the high 80s. They are very capable of that."
North won the first round of the league tournament Aug. 9 at Royal American, shooting a 343 to finish ahead of Gahanna (356), Grove City (403), Central (436) and Big Walnut (456). Caitlin Tasney shot a 76 to earn overall medalist honors. The second round was scheduled for Aug. 15 at Cooks Creek.
Aug. 4 -- Thomas Worthington Preview Invitational at Delaware Golf Club
Aug. 5 -- Fairfield Federal Invitational at Turnberry
Aug. 7 -- Polar Bear Invitational at Shady Hollow
Aug. 8 -- OCC-Ohio at Darby Creek
Aug. 10 -- New Albany Invitational at New Albany Links
Aug. 12 -- Steve Youmans Classic at Oakhaven
Aug. 14 -- OCC-Ohio at Apple Valley
Aug. 15 -- Dublin Invitational at Golf Club of Dublin
Aug. 21 -- New Albany at Clover Valley
Aug. 26 -- Pinnacle Classic at Pinnacle
Aug. 30 -- OCC-Ohio at Clover Valley
Sept. 2 -- Pine Hill Invitational at Pine Hill
Sept. 5 -- Lancaster Invitational at Lancaster Country Club
Sept. 7 -- Columbus Academy and Granville at Columbus Country Club
Sept. 9 -- St. Charles Invitational at Brookside
Sept. 11 -- Gdovin Memorial Invitational at Zanesville Country Club
Sept. 13 -- OCC-Ohio at Turnberry
Sept. 23 -- Upper Arlington Masters Invitational at Scioto Country Club
Sept. 25 -- Canton Central Catholic/Akron Hoban Invitational at Brookside
Sept. 28 -- Pickerington Central at Turnberry
Sept. 30 -- Dublin Jerome Honorary Invitational at Tartan Fields
Aug. 4 -- Panther Invitational at Turnberry
Aug. 7 -- Gahanna Invitational at Jefferson
Aug. 9 -- OCC-Ohio at Royal American
Aug. 11 -- Olentangy Classic at Oakhaven
Aug. 14 -- Watterson Invitational at Cooks Creek
Aug. 15 -- OCC-Ohio at Cooks Creek
Aug. 17 -- Olentangy, Olentangy Liberty and Watterson at Oakhaven
Aug. 21 -- Olentangy, Olentangy Liberty and Watterson at Scioto Reserve
Aug. 26 -- Bear-Lion Fall Open at Cooks Creek
Aug. 29 -- OCC-Ohio at Westchester
Aug. 30 -- Olentangy Orange and Upper Arlington at Turnberry
Sept. 2 -- Lady Thunderbird Invitational at Lost Creek
Sept. 7 -- Olentangy Orange and Upper Arlington at Blackhawk
Sept. 9 -- No Name Invitational at Cooks Creek
Sept. 11 -- Olentangy, Olentangy Liberty and Watterson at Airport
Sept. 12 -- OCC-Ohio at Mentel Memorial
Sept. 18 -- Olentangy Orange and Upper Arlington at Raymond Memorial
Sept. 23 -- Marysville Invitational at Darby Creek
Sept. 25 -- Olentangy, Olentangy Liberty and Watterson at Turnberry
Sept. 30 -- Canal Winchester Invitational at Westchester
Oct. 7 -- Pickerington North Fall Classic at The Links at Groveport
Aug. 16 -- vs. Olentangy
Aug. 17 -- at Columbus Academy
Aug. 22 -- at Dublin Coffman
*Aug. 24 -- at Pickerington Central
*Aug. 29 -- vs. Gahanna
*Aug. 31 -- vs. Lancaster
*Sept. 5 -- at Reynoldsburg
Sept. 6 -- vs. Chillicothe
*Sept. 7- vs. Grove City
Sept. 9 -- vs. Cincinnati Ursuline Academy and Mason
Sept. 12 -- at Columbus School for Girls
Sept. 13 -- vs. Watterson
Sept. 14 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
Sept. 19 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
Sept. 20 -- at Westerville Central
Sept. 23 -- at Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame
Sept. 26 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
Sept. 28 -- vs. Dublin Jerome
Oct. 3 -- vs. New Albany
Oct. 10 -- at Dublin Scioto
Below are the coming schedules for the North boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball teams:
Aug. 18 -- Home vs. Licking Heights
Aug. 22 -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne
Aug. 18 -- Home vs. Licking Heights
Aug. 22 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson
Aug. 19 -- Marysville Spike-Off Invitational
Aug. 22 -- Home vs. Westland