The addition of one of the area's top freshmen in Max Fickas has put the Dublin Jerome High School boys tennis team in an enviable position this spring.
The Celtics' 3-1 victory over Upper Arlington on May 6 marked the program's first dual-match victory over the Golden Bears.
With the win, Jerome improved to 17-1 and advanced to play New Albany on May 14 in the Division I district final of the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association team tournament. The winner advances to the state team tournament May 26 at Reynoldsburg.
All seven of the Celtics' entrants in the sectional May 9 and 11 at Hilliard Bradley advanced to district, marking the second consecutive year that Jerome has accomplished that feat, and there is optimism that better results await the Celtics at district than a year ago when they didn't have any state qualifiers.
The district tournament begins Thursday, May 16, and concludes Saturday, May 18, at Reynoldsburg, with the top four finishers in singles and doubles advancing to state May 24 and 25 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
"(The postseason is) a new season, and I'm expecting a lot," Fickas said. "It's been good. I'm trying to get the best mindset I can."
Fickas opens district against Delaware's Sam Bonofiglio. Also in his side of the bracket are New Albany's Ryan Mudre, a state qualifier last season, and Coffman's Luke Ritchie, who was runner-up at the UA sectional.
Fickas beat junior Anish Patel 1-6, 6-0, 6-3 for the sectional championship.
Patel opens district against UA's Hunter Triplett, with the winner to face New Albany's Logan Spiess or Delaware's Kyle Klumpp.
Also advancing in singles was junior Daniel Utkin, who opens against Granville's Raleigh Conway, with the winner to face St. Charles' Reese Yakubov or UA's Nick Gruss.
At sectional, Patel beat Utkin 6-4, 7-6 in a semifinal and Utkin defeated Scioto's Santhust Prasad 6-3, 6-3 to finish third.
"We kind of all lift each other up and motivate each other," Patel said. "It helps having a really friendly group."
In doubles, senior Dylan Cai and junior Chris Knight open against Worthington Kilbourne's Jack Lindaman and William Wiet and junior Andrew Dvorkin and freshman Tanish Pairu open against Coffman's Cobie Frank and Sanjay Janardhan.
Dvorkin and Pairu lost to Olentangy Liberty's Vishnu Bodavula and Marcelo Aguilar 7-5, 6-2 in the sectional final, while Cai and Knight beat Hilliard Davidson's Ethan Clark and Jack Kamnikar 6-0, 6-2 to finish third.
"Even though this is an individual tournament, it's a great accomplishment to be able to get all seven of these guys through (to district)," coach Ken Berlin said.
Boys lacrosse team to grow from MSLCA
After earning the top seed and being placed in the B bracket of the Midwest Scholastic Lacrosse Coaches Association tournament, the boys lacrosse team lost to Indianapolis Cathedral 12-11 on May 10 at home but bounced back to beat Mason 11-5 on May 11 at Fortress Obetz.
The win over Mason avenged an 8-7 loss to the Comets on March 17 and took place at 8 a.m., a little more than 12 hours after the loss to Cathedral.
"We were up 6-1 (against Cathedral) and, to their credit, they kept coming back," coach Andy Asmo said. "We were up 11-10, they tied it and then scored the game-winner with about a minute left in the game. We had a shot and we didn't score.
"Against Mason, you never know how your players are going to respond at 8 in the morning. We went down 1-0, but they responded nicely."
Seeded second, Jerome was 14-5 before opening the Division I, Region 1 tournament May 14 at home against 15th-seeded Brunswick.
The winner plays seventh-seeded Whitehouse Anthony Wayne or ninth-seeded Olentangy Orange in a regional quarterfinal Friday, May 17. That winner likely faces third-seeded Olentangy Liberty or sixth-seeded Olentangy in a regional semifinal Tuesday, May 21, at the home of the better seed. The regional final is May 24.
According to Asmo, during the MSLCA tournament, attacker Andrew Brim broke the program record for career assists with 101. Midfielder Ian Dean had three goals in the win over Mason.
Chase Tzagournis stepped in to play a key role during the MSLCA tournament because of an injury to midfielder Trey Welch, Asmo said.
Track squads begin postseasons
The track and field teams are competing in the Division I, district 3 meet this week at Hilliard Darby.
The meet began May 15, continues Thursday, May 16, and concludes Saturday, May 18.
The top four finishers in each event advance to regional Wednesday, May 22, and May 24 at Pickerington North. At regional, the top four finishers in each event advance to state May 31 and June 1 at Ohio State.
Both teams had strong performances in the OCC-Cardinal Division meet May 9 and 11 at Hilliard Davidson.
After placing fourth in the league last season, the boys team earned a runner-up finish with 105 points, behind Darby (141) and ahead of Thomas Worthington (95.5), Bradley (88), Worthington Kilbourne (75.5), Scioto (71), Olentangy Berlin (42) and Delaware (38).
Elliott Cook won the 800 meters (1 minute, 55.71 seconds) and also ran on the runner-up 1,600 relay along with Blake Hara, Silas Kayuha and David Reinhart (3:31.27) and the second-place 3,200 relay along with Jack Rozich, Andrew McPherson and Arjun Dhankani (8:24.27).
Joey Pinney finished first in the 110 hurdles (15.55), and also placing second were Alex Smythe in both the 100 (11.24) and 200 (22.45), Ross Stevenson in the pole vault (13 feet, 6 inches) and the 800 relay of Hara, Reinhart, Smythe and Ezra Strickland (1:32.01).
The girls team improved from fifth in the league last season to third this year, scoring 90.83 points to finish behind Darby (183) and Thomas (136) and ahead of Scioto (88), Bradley (48), Kilbourne (39.33), Berlin (38) and Delaware (34.83).
Raegan Ernst had runner-up finishes in the 300 hurdles (45.57) and high jump (5-0) and also ran on the second-place 1,600 relay along with Emily Oiler, Samantha Melican and Maya Fuller (4:02.38).
Also placing second were Oiler in the 400 (59.65) and the 800 relay of Meryl LaRue, Samantha Melican, Nicole Ogden and Fuller (1:49.39).
Baseball team starts postseason journey
The ninth-seeded baseball team opened the Division I district tournament May 15 at home against 18th-seeded Watkins Memorial or 48th-seeded Mifflin in a second-round game.
The winner plays sixth-seeded Darby, 19th-seeded Olentangy or 45th-seeded Walnut Ridge in a district semifinal Tuesday, May 21, at the home of the better seed. That winner advances to a district final May 23.
The Celtics were 13-11 overall and had lost seven games in a row heading into the tournament.
Included in that stretch were an 8-0 loss to Scioto on May 8 and a 4-1 loss to the Irish on May 10 that gave Jerome a final OCC-Cardinal record of 6-8.
The Celtics are scheduled to play host to Olentangy Liberty in a regular-season game Friday, May 17.
Girls lacrosse team opens tourney play
The second-seeded girls lacrosse team opened the Division I, Region 3 tournament May 14 at home against 17th-seeded Kettering Fairmont in a first-round game.
The winner plays seventh-seeded Springboro in a regional quarterfinal Friday, May 17, at the home of the better seed. That winner likely plays fourth-seeded Coffman or fifth-seeded Scioto in a regional semifinal Monday, May 20, at the home of the better seed. The regional final is May 23.
Jerome lost to UA 11-10 on May 7, beat Granville 13-5 on May 9 and fell to Liberty 11-8 on May 11 to close the regular season at 13-2-1.
Boys volleyball team preps for postseason
The boys volleyball team received the fourth seed for the Division I East Region tournament and opens Saturday, May 18, at home against 17th-seeded Upper Arlington. The winner plays third-seeded Gahanna, 10th-seeded Hilliard Davidson or 16th-seeded Westerville North on May 21 in a regional semifinal at a site to be announced. The regional final is May 24 at Westerville Central.
The Celtics were 12-6 overall before competing in the OCC Challenge on May 14 at Darby. They beat Scioto 25-13, 25-12, 25-21 on May 7 to finish runner-up in the OCC-Cardinal at 11-3, behind Darby (14-0).
Softball team has breakthrough year
Despite losing in the second round of the Division I district tournament when it was the higher seed, the softball team had a breakthrough season.
The 14th-seeded Celtics lost to 15th-seeded Watterson 5-3 on May 9, trailing 5-0 before scoring three runs in the sixth inning.
Jerome finished 16-11 overall, a five-win improvement over 2018 and a program record for victories despite having only two seniors in Lauren Belu (OF) and Whitney Karg (1B/3B).
Junior Jenna Watts (P/2B) went 14-10 in the circle with 192 strikeouts and hit better than .450 to lead the team in batting average.
Junior outfielder Julia Burch hit better than .450 with more than 20 runs scored, junior catcher Alie Intihar had four home runs and junior shortstop Kendall Sestili hit three home runs and led the Celtics in runs with 34.
Holly Harris (1B/P) and Sissy Monte (CF) were other key juniors.
Others eligible to return include freshmen Amaris Lowery (2B), Diana Bishopp (1B/P), Shelby Craig (1B/3B), Rachel Jarrett (C) and Kylin Smith (C/RF).
Jerome went 9-5 in the OCC-Cardinal to tie Bradley for third, behind Delaware (14-0) and Darby (10-4), and beat Scioto 10-8 and Coffman 2-1 on May 4 to win the Dublin Classic.
Athletes announce college decisions
On May 8, eight student-athletes announced their college decisions.
Demi Brewer will play women's basketball for Capital, Brim will play men's lacrosse for Denison, Budde will compete in men's track and field at Heidelberg, Regan Calcara will play women's soccer for Geneva, Gavin Monaghan will play men's lacrosse at Anderson, Carson Rengel will play baseball for Wittenberg, Max Scott will compete in men's swimming and diving for Indiana and Stevenson will compete in men's track and field at Grand Valley State.