A young roster could lead to growing pains for the St. Charles Preparatory School tennis team, but the Cardinals might pick up the experience needed for success in the postseason.
The top returnee is sophomore Reese Yakubov, who finished second in the Division I state tournament in doubles last season with 2018 graduate Jack Dabek. They lost to New Albany's Devin Boyer and Nathan Jose 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the final, but were leading 5-2 in the second set when Dabek began having leg cramps.
Yakubov is playing first singles with freshman Brady Pema at second singles and senior Ben Wolfe at third singles.
"Our top two guys have played a lot of tennis, and they have been in a lot of tournaments around the area and the country," fourth-year coach Max Quinton said. "Many of our kids haven't played in a lot of tournaments, but they have been around tennis for the last three or four years. They just don't have that match-play experience."
Freshmen Daniel Ferguson and Kellen Karas are playing first doubles. The second-doubles court will feature a combination of seniors Dylan Forche and Will Prophater or juniors Patrick McNamara and Evan Porshinsky.
"We have three freshmen in the varsity lineup so if we could get them more experience we should be good," Yakubov said.
"When I was a freshman last year, the first few matches were the toughest for me, but it was better as the season went on."
The Cardinals opened with a 3-2 loss to Thomas Worthington on April 3 and fell to Bexley 3-2 on April 8.
"I have had to spend a lot more time teaching than I have in the past," Quinton said. "Our kids have been experienced in the past and worked on their games in the offseason, and they came in really pretty good. Outside of my top two players, they need a lot of work.
"We don't have enough time to build them up with the season being so short. We have a nice young team and if we have the freshmen fill in the gaps, I'm optimistic we can be a decent team."
The Cardinals finished 9-6 overall last spring and won their seventh consecutive CCL championship by going 4-0. They opened league play April 9 against Hartley.
"I think our main goal is to win the CCL, especially for the seniors," Yakubov said. "It would be great for them to win it in their last season."
Sprinters leading track program
Coach John Leskovich has a more seasoned group of athletes in his second season leading the track and field program.
The Cardinals saw improvement in the offseason and during the indoor season, especially in the sprint corps.
"I was pleased with how (the) indoor (season) went for us," Leskovich said. "The guys took it to heart this year, lifting three days a week and training on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It's really going to pay off for us and reduce our injuries."
Junior Kaleb Simpson, sophomore Isaiah Yarngo, junior Nick Rivera and senior Justin Efebera finished 21st in the 800-meter relay (1 minute, 40.25 seconds) in the Division I state indoor meet March 2 at SPIRE Institute in Geneva.
Simpson was 18th in the 60 (7.21) and Efebera was 22nd in the 60 hurdles (8.58).
"I think the sprints will be the strength of our team," Leskovich said. "They were all really young last year, and they all came in and adapted to our training."
The sprinters started the outdoor season strongly, especially Simpson, who won both the 100 and 200 in the first two meets. He was first in the 100 (11.16) and 200 (22.48) in the Hammond Relays on March 23 at Pickerington North, and he also was on the winning 400 relay (43.41) with Yarngo, Rivera and junior Roland Rowe as the Cardinals finished fifth (51 points) of seven teams behind champion Lancaster (121).
St. Charles won the 16-team Newark Invitational on March 30 with 85 points, ahead of runner-up Heath (84.5). Simpson was first in the 100 (11.17) and 200 (22.64) and was a member of the winning 400 relay (44.04) with the same three teammates.
The 3,200 relay of seniors Cameron DeShetler and Liam O'Reilly, sophomore Owen Karas and senior Will Blubaugh won in 8:37.6. O'Reilly was second in the 3,200 (10:13.8) and Efebera was runner-up in the 110 hurdles (15.64).
Seniors Will Susa (throws) and Nick Welch (jumps, 200, 400) return, as do junior Ethan Encarnacion and sophomore Iain Karas in distance.
The team also will be aided by several multisport athletes such as Rowe (basketball) in sprints, senior Josh Mayo (football) in throws and junior David Rodriguez (soccer) in sprints and jumps.
"I'm really excited by the well-roundedness we have on the team from having kids who play other sports," Leskovich said. "We reached out to some other sports to help us, and I think that will help benefit the other sports as well."
Below are the coming schedules for the St. Charles baseball, lacrosse, tennis, track & field and volleyball teams:
April 11 -- At Westerville Central
April 13 -- Home vs. Pickerington North
*April 15 -- Home vs. Hartley
*April 17 -- Home vs. DeSales
April 12 -- At Hudson Western Reserve
April 13 -- At Hudson
April 17 -- At DeSales
April 15 -- At Columbus Academy
TRACK & FIELD
April 12 -- Russ Owen Bexley Relays
*April 11 -- Home vs. Watterson. The Cardinals defeated the Eagles 25-19, 25-12, 25-23 on April 4.
April 13 -- Spikes for Tykes at Mount Union
April 17 -- At Hilliard Bradley