It didn't take Westerville South High School boys tennis player Raphael Guilhem long to adapt to a new style of play.
Guilhem, an exchange student from France, quickly emerged as the Wildcats' first-singles player and is expected to lead the team in a Division I sectional Thursday, May 10, and Saturday, May 12, at Upper Arlington.
Guilhem is seeded third in singles. He has an 8-2 record this season.
"He's tough," coach Ryan French said. "He's a great kid. He's got game for sure. You could tell right away. The kids like him. He's a lot fun to have (on the team). He's a great player."
At sectional, the top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to district May 17 at Hilliard Bradley and May 19 at UA. At district, the top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to state May 25 and 26 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
Guilhem, who lives in Bergerac in southern France, is in his junior year at South and will return home at the end of the school year.
He began playing tennis at age 6 and grew up playing mainly on clay courts. He said he had to adjust to playing on hard courts in central Ohio.
"I had to learn a different way to play (with) more attack," Guilhem said. "I used to play far from the baseline because it's on clay, (which is) a big difference. Clay is slower. I had to learn to hit the ball stronger."
He said another adjustment has been learning English, but both he and French said Guilhem's understanding of the language has improved immensely since the school year began.
"My English is getting better," Guilhem said. "In August I wasn't able to understand and speak."
His new lifestyle also has included trying American food, with his favorite being macaroni and cheese. His favorite subjects are algebra 2, Spanish and speech to help improve his English.
"I never ate mac and cheese before," he said. "Plus, you can go to restaurants anywhere at any time here. In France, restaurants are only for lunch and dinner. Here breakfast is 24 hours a day."
Guilhem is living with Lance and Denise Seman along with their two sons. The host family lives within walking distance of the school.
"I like it here a lot; it's real different," Guilhem said. "There's a difference with the courts. I play a lot on clay. Also, I start school at 8 a.m. and go until 5 or 6 p.m. (in France). Here, it's 2 p.m. ... I've met new people."
Also in singles at sectional, Quan Phan will play Dublin Scioto's Jonathan Steinke and Anthony Vilardo will play Athens' Freddie Hassett in first-round matches.
"We have gotten some wins because of the addition of Raphael," French said. "Anthony is real versatile. He'll play singles or doubles, whatever you want him to do he'll do."
Adrian Self and Allen Liu will face Scioto's Dylan Mathess and Conner Page in a first-round doubles match.
South finished the regular season 3-7 overall and 1-4 in the OCC-Buckeye Division with the league win coming against Westerville North (3-2 on April 25).
The Wildcats have played shorthanded all season, as they have only six players.
Softball team begins tournament play
The 37th-seeded softball team improved to 6-17 overall with a 17-7 win in five innings at 32nd-seeded Briggs in the first round of the Division I district tournament May 7.
The winner played second-seeded Central Crossing in the second round May 9, with the winner playing 18th-seeded Reynoldsburg or 22nd-seeded Olentangy Liberty in a district semifinal Monday, May 14, at a neutral site to be determined. The district final is May 18 or 19 at Pickerington Central.
The Wildcats finished 3-7 in the OCC-Buckeye. They closed league play with a 9-6 win over Liberty on May 3.
Baseball team falls in postseason
The 34th-seeded baseball team finished 5-22 overall with a 4-0 loss at 22nd-seeded Hamilton Township in the first round of the Division I district tournament May 7.
The Wildcats went 3-12 in the OCC-Buckeye.
Below are the coming schedules for the South boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
May 11 -- Home vs. Gahanna
May 12 -- At 11th-seeded Pickerington Central in first round of Division I, Region 3 tournament. Winner plays at third-seeded New Albany in second round May 15. The Wildcats are seeded 18th of 19 teams.
May 10 -- Home vs. Hilliard Bradley
May 15 -- At ninth-seeded Westerville North in first round of Division I, Region 1 tournament. Winner plays at top-seeded New Albany in second round May 18. The Wildcats are seeded 14th of 15 teams.
TRACK & FIELD
May 10, 12 -- OCC-Buckeye meet at Olentangy Orange
May 15, 16, 19 -- Division I, district 2 meet at Hilliard Darby. Top four finishers in each event
advance to regional May 23 and 25 at Pickerington North.
May 10 -- Home vs. Delaware