To hear New Albany High School boys tennis coach Marc Thomas list his team's goals for this season, it's almost as if the Eagles don't have three returning Division I state champions in their lineup.
They do, but it's the pursuit of exceeding those accomplishments and winning the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association state team championship that Thomas hopes will drive his team during the next two months.
"We've got a lot going that we're trying to finish. We have a lot left undone from the last three years. We've done really well, (but) we're trying to take one step forward," said Thomas, who is in his seventh season. "Anytime you have three state champions and four state qualifiers, you're going to win a lot of matches. We're trying to do something pretty special. It's going to be tough. There are a lot of great teams we'll have to battle. Nothing's going to come easy. We can't live on what we did last year. This year is a new year, another chance for us to compete."
Senior Robert Cash, an Ohio State commit, is seeking his second consecutive singles championship after going undefeated in 21 matches on the court as a junior. Cash's only two losses last season were by default because of illness.
Senior Nathan Jose and sophomore Devin Boyer won last year's doubles championship, but the next day the Eagles finished a 16-1 season by losing to Mason 3-0 in the OTCA state final.
New Albany was 4-1 this season before its OCC-Capital Division opener April 9 at Newark. The Eagles won each of their first three matches, at Olentangy on April 1 and at home against Gahanna on April 2 and Pickerington Central on April 4, by 5-0 scores, and split two home matches April 6, edging Cincinnati Sycamore 3-2 and losing to Mason 5-0.
"We are competitive. We push each other. We play a lot of practice sets and those are fun. They're difficult," Boyer said. "I try not to put too much pressure on myself. I just want to go out there and see how I can do. But there is some pressure there."
Cash, Jose and Boyer began the season at first, second and third singles, respectively.
Senior Logan Spiess, who will play golf at Kenyon, and sophomore Ryan Mudre started at first doubles. Second doubles consisted of seniors Dev Vasani and Ben Yan.
Mudre was the Eagles' fourth state qualifier last year.
"I wanted to just work on my game overall in singles and doubles. My goal is to get back to state and try to get as far as I can," Mudre said. "We set some small goals, just getting better overall, but we have a lot of big goals, too."
Rounding out the roster are senior Evan Waite, junior Alek Jacoby and sophomore Kaan Odabas.
The Eagles went 5-0 in the OCC-Capital last year to win their 13th consecutive league championship ahead of runner-up Big Walnut (4-1).
"We're going to make everybody earn it against us. We're going to battle everywhere," Thomas said. "Some of the best tennis players in the country are on this team and they all care about the team more than themselves. They do push each other and compete hard against each other. At the end of the day, they are worried about the name across their uniform and that's a special thing when you have players as good as this."
Below is the coming schedule for the New Albany boys tennis team:
*April 11 -- Home vs. Big Walnut
April 12-13 -- Derby City Invitational at Louisville (Ky.) St. Xavier
April 16 -- Home vs. Wellington and at *Groveport