The Canal Winchester High School boys tennis team lost each of its first three matches this season, but that's only the big picture as far as third-year coach Doug Welsh is concerned.

"Our practices have been good and we've taken those lessons into matches, even when we haven't won," Welsh said. "We're less experienced at doubles, but our top three singles players are veterans and that has shown. (Junior) Caden (Sweeney) will win a lot of matches (at third singles) and that will be a huge help. He's studied the game, he's in shape, he's locating the ball better and he's extremely competitive."

The Indians return their top three singles players, a group that also includes senior Connor Clark and sophomore Jeremy Irby at first and second singles, respectively, and a handful of doubles players who helped the team go 7-6 overall and 2-3 in the OCC-Capital Division last year.

Clark is in his third season as Canal Winchester's full-time first singles player after splitting that role as a freshman. Irby and Sweeney played second and third singles a year ago.

Canal Winchester opened April 1 with a 5-0 home loss to Teays Valley and lost to Grandview 3-2 at home on April 3 and 5-0 at Pickerington North the next day.

Irby, who hopes to take over first singles after Clark graduates, said he has devoted considerable time to working on his serve since last season.

"I'll stay after practice for an hour-and-a-half and just hit serves, just preparing myself. The main thing (last year) when I played a good (opponent) was that my second serve was so soft that they'd just drill it down the line and I'd have no chance," Irby said. "Second serves, first serves, that's all I've been working on. I want to prepare myself so I can help my team win. That's my main goal, just to help the team out the most I can."

Sweeney said Welsh has emphasized mental and physical conditioning since preseason practice began.

"We never want to look tired in front of anyone because that can give the other team an advantage and more energy," Sweeney said. "We want to make sure we are hitting the ball exactly how we want. If we're not doing that, we're giving the other team free points. We want to make them work just as hard to get anything against us."

Junior Jake Diehl and sophomore Jake Chapman began the season at first doubles, ahead of senior Corey Berner and junior Drew Adams at second doubles.

Rounding out the roster are junior J.J. Brotherwood and freshman Greyson Dunbar.

Canal Winchester began OCC-Capital play April 9 at Big Walnut. The Indians finished fourth in the league last year behind champion New Albany (5-0), which has won 13 consecutive OCC-Capital championships and has three Division I state champions on its roster this season in defending singles champion Robert Cash -- an Ohio State recruit -- and both members of a championship doubles team in Devin Boyer and Nathan Jose.

The Indians play the Eagles on April 18.

"This could be a good season overall. I think it will be better than last year," Irby said. "We are a good team."

Split track teams have strong weekend

The boys track and field team combined for four event championships in two meets April 6, as the Indians were split between the Falcon Invitational at Fairfield Union and the Stingel Invitational at Pickerington North.

At Fairfield Union, Elijah Bulluck won the high jump (6 feet) and Yohannes McLeish was first in the 200 meters (23.72 seconds) as the Indians scored 84 points and placed second of 14 teams, behind Thornville Sheridan (140.5). Bulluck and McLeish both were on the second-place 800 relay (1:35.53) with Blaine Riley and Christian Ryan.

Cassie Kolonchuk placed third in the 1,600 (5:41.94) to lead the girls to eighth place (30) of 14 teams, behind the champion and host Falcons (139.5).

At North, the 800 relay of Gibson Cornett, Korbin Martino, Dylan Randall and Nathan Simons won in a program-record 1:27.91 and Martino won the 400 (48.85) to lead the boys team to seventh place (47.25) of 16 teams as Pickerington Central won (111.75).

The 1,600 relay of Will Butler, Martino, Randall and Simons also won (3:24.59), Dom Davis was third in the high jump (6-0) and the 400 relay of Stephan Byrd, Cornett, Randall and Tyler Toledo finished third (43.78).

Jaedyn Johnson's third-place finish in the high jump (5-2) led the girls to 28.5 points and 10th place of 16 teams, behind champion Olentangy Orange (135). Ariana Coleman placed fifth in the 400 (1:03.18) and was on the fifth-place 1,600 relay (4:15.85) with Johnson, Allena Klamorick and Angela Postage.

Last weekend was the only time this season that the teams are scheduled to compete in multiple invitationals on the same day, although the Indians have invitationals on consecutive days during the first weekend of May. They will compete in Westerville Central's Warhawk Invitational on May 3 at Otterbein and in the Teays Valley Kiwanis Invitational the next day.

Baseball players enjoy Dosch's return

While the baseball team struggled through the first two weeks of the season, several players were excited to have a new assistant coach on staff.

Former Canal Winchester standout Drew Dosch, who helped the Indians reach the Division II state tournament in 2008 and '09, retired in January after five seasons in the Baltimore Orioles organization. He spent most of the past two seasons with their Triple-A affiliate, the Norfolk Tides, and had a .278 batting average with 32 home runs and 256 RBI in five minor league seasons.

Dosch was a Triple-A All-Star last year, when the game was held at Huntington Park.

"It's really cool. Any questions we have, he knows the answer to," utility player Trevor Mays said. "He's great with fielding. He talks about catching ground balls instead of fielding them. You have to catch the ball individually before anything else, then get it into you and then throw to first. I think that will help us not make errors."

Canal Winchester was 1-7 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Capital before playing Groveport on April 10.

The Indians lost their league opener to host Big Walnut 2-1 in nine innings on April 5 but defeated the visiting Golden Eagles 3-2 on April 8 on Mays' walkoff double.

Canal Winchester had been outscored 70-24 before April 10, including one unfinished game. The Indians and Hartley played to an 8-all tie through seven innings April 2 before that game was suspended because of darkness.

A date to finish the game was not immediately determined.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Canal Winchester baseball, softball, boys tennis and track & field teams:

BASEBALL

*April 11 -- At Groveport

*April 15 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights

April 16 -- Home vs. Teays Valley

*April 17 -- At Franklin Heights

SOFTBALL

*April 11 -- Home vs. Groveport

April 13 -- Home vs. Licking Valley (DH)

*April 15 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights

*April 17 -- At New Albany

BOYS TENNIS

*April 11 -- Home vs. Groveport

April 15 -- Home vs. Hartley

*April 16 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights

TRACK & FIELD

April 13 -- Cruiser Invitational at Groveport

April 17 -- Gahanna Relays

*League contest