Although they were the Olentangy High School boys tennis team's top two singles players most of the regular season, Omar Khayat and Sam Routzahn had a feeling that they might pair up in the postseason to play doubles.
Once that happened, they were confident that a Division I state tournament berth was in reach, although the road wasn't always smooth.
But Khayat, a freshman, and Routzahn, a sophomore, will compete at state Friday, May 24, and Saturday, May 25, at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, the fourth time in five years Olentangy has been represented in the tournament.
The pair finished third in the district tournament that concluded May 18 at Reynoldsburg, going 3-1 and defeating Liberty's Marcelo Aguilar and Vishnu Bodavula 7-6 (6-4), 6-4 in the third-place match.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to state.
"From the beginning of the season we were pretty sure we were going to play doubles together. We've been working together whenever we could," Routzahn said. "This is what we were hoping for. We got a lot of good wins this season."
Khayat and Routzahn defeated Gahanna's Kyle Fout and Aoi Higuchi 6-3, 6-4 in the first round at district and edged Dublin Jerome's Andrew Dvorkin and Tanish Pairu 6-1, 7-6 (8-6) in a state-qualifying match. They had match point in the second set, leading 5-2, before going down 6-5 and forcing a tiebreaker in which they trailed 6-1.
"We played some good points and fought back," Khayat said. "We attacked the net very well and took over the net. They kind of stayed back. We didn't do that as much at sectional, but we had some good practices and improved on a lot of things."
Khayat and Routzahn, who lost to defending state champions Devin Boyer and Nathan Jose of New Albany 6-3, 7-6 (6-3) in a district semifinal, were Olentangy's only district qualifiers.
"There were stretches when they've played well, some of the best I've seen them play, and others where they lost focus a little bit, but I'm very happy. The more reps they get together, the better they'll get," coach Jeff Luxenburger said. "They're both great singles players so it's always tough making that move to doubles, but they are coming along really well. Both of them like to play doubles. They didn't need much convincing. It was their idea as well, and on the team they're pretty equal in talent, which lets you know they'll make a pretty good team."
Track teams prep for regional
Six individuals and a relay advanced for the boys and girls track and field teams to the Division I regional meet May 22 and Friday, May 24, at Pickerington North.
Cade Carter's championship in the pole vault (14 feet, 4 inches) and Carter Schaefer's win in the 3,200 meters (9 minutes, 51.38 seconds) in the district 1 meet, which concluded May 18 at Hilliard Darby, led the boys to 45 points and seventh behind champion Pickerington Central (137) as 17 teams scored. Sam Holt was third in the 1,600 (4:20.64) and fourth in the 3,200 (13-4), the 3,200 relay was third (8:13.6) with Holt, Chandler Moyer, Schaefer and Mikey Worboy and Zach Shiblaq was fourth in the pole vault (13-4).
The girls finished eighth (34) behind the champion and host Panthers (106) as 17 teams scored. Muskan Arora was runner-up in the 100 (12.97) and Lex Brookshire finished third in the 3,200 (10:53.24).
The top four finishers in each event advanced to regional, where the top four in each event advance to state May 31 and June 1 at Ohio State.
Boys lacrosse team upsets Patriots
A 10-7 loss to Liberty on May 1 cost the boys lacrosse team a chance at the OCC-Buckeye Division title, but the Braves got their revenge 16 days later by coming from behind to upset the third-seeded Patriots 6-5 in a Division I, Region 1 quarterfinal.
Evan Parrott and Khairi Sears each had two goals to lead sixth-seeded Olentangy, and Parrott scored the game-winner with 4:43 to play off an assist from Sears. Hunter Boehm and Aidan Moore also scored for the Braves, who trailed 3-0 with less than eight minutes left in the first half, and goalkeeper Sam McInturf made 12 saves.
Liberty also defeated Olentangy in a Region 1 semifinal last year and in the regional final two years ago.
The Braves, who began the postseason with a 13-3 home win over 11th-seeded Dublin Scioto on May 14, were 12-8 before visiting second-seeded Jerome for a regional semifinal May 21.
The winner will play top-seeded Dublin Coffman or fifth-seeded Medina in the regional final Friday, May 24, at a neutral site. The regional champion will face Cleveland St. Ignatius, Lakewood St. Edward, North Canton Hoover or Shaker Heights in a state semifinal Wednesday, May 29, at a neutral site.
Of those teams, the Braves lost to Medina 11-9 on March 30.
Girls lacrosse team reaches regional final
The girls lacrosse team rolled into a Division I, Region 1 semifinal at home May 20 against Liberty having outscored its first two tournament opponents 44-12, but then had to hold off the third-seeded Patriots 14-13.
Maddie Garner's five goals, including the game-winner with 2:13 to play, led the second-seeded Braves. Kenzie Sklar added four goals.
Olentangy routed 15th-seeded Whitehouse Anthony Wayne 23-2 in a first-round home game May 13 and then beat visiting and seventh-seeded Delaware 21-10 in a quarterfinal May 17 behind eight goals from Garner, five from Sklar and four from Katie Berberick.
Olentangy is 15-5-1 entering the regional final against top-seeded New Albany on Thursday, May 23, at Westerville Central. The regional champion will play Hudson or Massillon Jackson in a state semifinal Wednesday, May 29, at a neutral site.
Olentangy lost to New Albany 19-6 on April 16.
Baseball team falls to Panthers
A disappointing season by the baseball team's standards came to an end May 15 with a 7-0 loss at sixth-seeded Darby in the second round of the Division I district tournament.
Senior Sutton Bucci (1B) and sophomore Jace Middleton (P/OF) had the only two hits for the 19th-seeded Braves, who finished 12-14.
Olentangy won its tournament opener the previous day, crushing visiting and 45th-seeded Walnut Ridge 28-0 in five innings. Senior Christian Bova (P/3B), junior Josh Anderson (P/OF) and freshman Carter Williamson (P/C) combined to no-hit the Scots.
"We had a tough season. We faced a lot of adversity and didn't handle it well at times. From a record standpoint, we didn't meet the standards that have been set for Olentangy baseball," coach Ryan Lucas said. "The only way I know how to respond when you get knocked down with anything in life is to work harder. We need to have a great offseason ... to improve our overall skill level. The culture of our program is just fine, we just need to get better and build back our depth."
Senior Connor Haag (SS/3B/DH) led the Braves in batting average (.410), hits (32) and RBI (21). Junior Jack Baldwin (2B/SS) batted .373 with 25 hits, and senior Ben Brewster (P/utility) had a .318 average with 21 hits.
Senior Caden Kaiser (C/P/1B), an Ohio State recruit, batted .333 with 12 hits but played in just 13 games because of injuries.
Boys volleyball team loses tourney opener
The boys volleyball team won 17 matches and shared its second consecutive OCC-Buckeye title but struggled at the end of the season, dropping its final three matches and losing to eighth-seeded Liberty 25-23, 25-22, 21-25, 25-19 on May 18 in the second round of the Division I East Region tournament at Darby.
Fifth-seeded Olentangy, which finished 17-8 overall, also lost to Liberty 25-20, 25-16, 23-25, 25-17 on May 8 to share the league title with the Patriots. Both teams went 7-1.
According to coach Karen Kochheiser, various illnesses hampered the team during the past few weeks and senior outside hitter Hayden Kerekes, a Marymount recruit, struggled with a back injury sustained May 8.
"We've had seven guys in our rotation and we've played (75) sets (this season)," Kochheiser said after a 24-26, 25-23, 25-19, 25-21 loss at Worthington Kilbourne to end the regular season May 16. "That's a lot of wear and tear on seven kids. You can start to see that."
Key players eligible to return include sophomores Sam Irwin (middle hitter/def-ensive specialist) and Sam Kaylor (outside hitter/defensive specialist).