Pickerington High School Central boys tennis coach Kelli Rings often has paired her top two singles players as a doubles team for the postseason, but she changed that strategy this year for a few reasons.
Not only does Rings think the chemistry between her usual first doubles team of Stevan Klein and Karson Stanley might translate into a Division I district tournament berth, but Klein and Stanley themselves are far more comfortable on a doubles court than playing singles.
"From the beginning of last season, Kelli would always talk to me about who I'd want to play with and I said Stevan because we complement each other so well," Stanley said. "If we played singles, we'd get obliterated. We're not singles players. Having someone in doubles that can motivate you to keep going is something we're both more comfortable with. A lot of our games we've won, maybe one of us would get upset and the other was there to calm them down."
Klein and Stanley are seeded fourth in the Tigers' home sectional Thursday, May 9, and Saturday, May 11, although they have faced tough competition within their own team from the other doubles pairing of Brady Phelps and Cooper Stang. The two doubles teams have split a handful of practice matches over the past few weeks.
"They are so evenly matched. It seems like they beat each other every other day," Rings said. "Just when you think one team has the upper hand, the other one says, 'Not so fast.' They're very competitive with each other. They are raising their own bar, just playing their own games and being aggressive. I hope that continues (in the postseason)."
Last year, Klein and 2018 graduate Jeremy O'Coner played first doubles and Stanley generally played second doubles, but O'Coner teamed with first singles player Leyton Mathias for the sectional while Klein played singles and Stanley was teamed with 2018 graduate Evan Gibson.
"Singles involves a lot more movement and doubles, having a partner means there's a lot less space that you have to cover because you're up at the net or (your partner is)," Klein said. "They take care of their side, you take care of your side and it's a lot easier than playing singles all by yourself.
"Karson and I match each other's skills very well. My serve really keeps us in the match and so does Karson's, but his strong suit is definitely at the net. He puts a lot of balls away that I can't get. He finishes the points more often than I do."
Dylan Glauer, Jack Philabaum and Arya JohnSamuel will play singles at sectional.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to district May 16 and 18 at Reynoldsburg.
Central was 13-6 overall before playing Dublin Scioto on May 7.
"(Our singles players) have really stepped up this year and have worked hard. There is improvement in their game every single day," Rings said. "It's fun when you have a group of kids who love the game and want to improve."
Softball team shares league title
Thanks to a three-game winning streak to finish OCC-Ohio Division play and some outside help, the softball team shared the league championship with Lancaster.
Central went 8-2 in the OCC-Ohio to tie the Golden Gales -- who handed the Tigers their only league losses -- ahead of Gahanna and Grove City (both 6-4). After an 11-1, six-inning loss at Lancaster on April 24, Central beat Grove City 5-4 on April 29, Reynoldsburg 9-6 on April 30 and Gahanna 15-7 on May 1.
The Tigers outhit Gahanna, which had defeated Lancaster 3-1 on April 29, 19-10 and got two hits and five RBI from Anna Feil. Zoie Smith had three hits, including a home run, and four RBI and Kassidy Stanley went 4-for-4.
"When we hit a skid, we recover not only at the plate, but with defense and with our energy," coach Jenny Young said. "You have to plug those holes in the ship. They put pressure on themselves to succeed, one through nine. They all want to contribute and they don't like when they don't."
Central improved to 16-6 overall with a 9-7 win over Canal Winchester on May 6.
Seeded 11th in the 45-team Division I district tournament, the Tigers took a first-round bye and played host to 29th-seeded Reynoldsburg in the second round May 8. The winner will play 10th-seeded Teays Valley or 45th-seeded Franklin Heights in a district semifinal Monday, May 13, at a neutral site.
The district final will be played May 17 or 18 at Central.
Lacrosse teams roll past Panthers
The boys and girls lacrosse teams quickly took control in their games May 3 at North, outscoring the Panthers by a combined score of 39-10 to complete a doubleheader sweep.
Led by Grace Osborn's seven goals and 14 draw controls, tying the program record set by 2017 graduate Lauren Morris, the girls won 18-5. Maddie Morrell added five goals as Central defeated North for the fifth time in six years and avenged a 10-8 loss to the Panthers last year.
The Tigers were 11-3 overall before playing Bexley on May 7 and finished 4-2 in the OCC-Central. Osborn tied her career high in scoring, as she also had seven goals in a Division I, Region 3 tournament win over Gahanna last year.
"Pretty much everything we talked about in practices leading up to (May 3), they did exactly what we wanted them to do. Usually after every game, win or lose, I have some things to point out that we can fix, but they did everything we asked," girls coach Brian Walton said. "Grace has been the hot hand on draws and she's killed it the last couple games winning the draws and keeping everything going."
In the boys game, Ben Hayes had six goals as Central rolled to a 21-5 win. Morgan Morrell added five goals and A.J. Terbovich scored four as the Tigers led 13-4 at halftime.
"I was expecting a little more of a battle, but I'm happy with how it turned out. I like to score," said Hayes, who had 37 goals through 14 games. "I've been trying to do my best all over the place, trying to get assists and goals. I want to say I have over 30 assists this season and I wanted to have a lot of those and a lot of goals. I thought 20 (assists) would be realistic for me."
Central fell to 10-5 overall with a 17-6 loss to Watterson on May 6 and finished 4-3 in the OCC-Central.
Both the boys and girls team will play host to Beavercreek on Tuesday, May 14, in the first round of their respective Division I, Region 3 tournaments.
The girls are seeded sixth of 17 teams in the region, and the Beavers are seeded 12th. The winner plays third-seeded Thomas Worthington or 13th-seeded Hilliard Davidson in a regional quarterfinal May 17.
The boys are seeded eighth of 16 teams in the region, and the Beavers are seeded 12th. The winner faces second-seeded Kilbourne or 16th-seeded Newark in a regional quarterfinal May 17.
The boys team defeated Beavercreek 7-5 on April 19, and the girls defeated the Beavers 16-6 on April 30.
Boys track team set to defend title
The boys track and field team will seek to repeat as OCC-Ohio champion during the league meet Thursday, May 9, and Saturday, May 11, at Groveport, and three individuals from the boys and girls teams will try to defend event titles.
Led by Denzell Feagin's win in the high jump and Evan Matthews' win in the 300-meter hurdles, the boys team scored 166 points at last year's meet to finish first, ahead of Gahanna (108), Lancaster (94), North (76), Reynoldsburg (44) and Grove City (33).
Jaydan Wood won both the 200 and 400 titles to pace the girls team, which finished third (107) behind Gahanna (164) and Lancaster (123) and ahead of North (97), Reynoldsburg (23) and Grove City (7).
Matthews, who like Wood is an Ohio State recruit, ranked first in last week's area honor roll in the 110 hurdles (14.13), 300 hurdles (37.76) and 400 (48.79). Feagin was the area leader in the 200 (21.76) and was second in the 100 (10.72), six spots ahead of teammate Lorenzo Styles (10.92).
On the girls side, Wood was first in the 200 (24.48) and second in the 100 (12.11).
Central's distance group also was well-represented in the area, as Brady Johnson was fifth in the 3,200 (9:33.81) and eighth in both the 800 (1:57.85) and 1,600 (4:26.81) and Garner Wallace was seventh in the 1,600 (4:25.83).
After the league meet, the Tigers will prepare for the Division I, district 1 meet at Hilliard Darby. Preliminaries for the running events will take place Tuesday, May 14, followed by field events May 16 and running finals May 18.
The top four finishers in each event advance to regional May 22 and 24 at North.
Below are the coming schedules for the Central baseball and boys volleyball teams:
May 9 -- At St. Charles
*May 10 -- At Gahanna. The Tigers lost to the Lions 8-1 on April 29 and 12-1 on April 30.
*May 11 -- Home vs. Lancaster in makeup from May 3 and 4. The Tigers lost to the Golden Gales 7-5 on April 10 and 5-1 on April 12.
May 13 -- At 23rd-seeded Worthington Kilbourne in first round of Division I district tournament. Winner visits 10th-seeded Dublin Coffman in second round May 15. The Tigers are seeded 30th of 48 teams.
May 9 -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange and Thomas Worthington
May 14 -- OCC Challenge at Hilliard Darby