With two of the state's top players in Robert Cash and Nathan Jose having graduated and signed to play in college, Devin Boyer embraced his expected role as a leader for the New Albany boys tennis team this spring.

Boyer is no stranger to success, having teamed with Jose to win the Division I state doubles championship two years ago as a freshman and finish third at state last season.

The cancellation of this season because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic will leave Boyer one more chance to see how he can add to his legacy.

"I wanted to let the season play out, but I also wanted to follow in (Cash and Jose's) footsteps and look at what they did, see how they motivated everyone to do better," Boyer said. "I wanted to incorporate that into our practices and help improve the rest of the team, especially the younger guys coming in. Ryan (Mudre), Alek (Jacoby) and I would have been pretty good leaders."

Cash and Jose signed with Ohio State and Army, respectively.

Although Boyer predominantly played singles each of the past two seasons, he and Jose twice finished as district runners-up to earn state berths.

Coach Marc Thomas projected that Boyer and Mudre, who also is a junior, would have been a doubles team in the postseason. The state tournament would have taken place Friday, May 29, and Saturday, May 30, at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.

"They both have different strengths and different weaknesses, but they're both so good that it's one of those things where it's hard to put one ahead of the other," Thomas said. "I hadn't totally sorted that out with them, but I think they would have been one of a handful of teams that could have won the state title in doubles. Devin probably has a bigger serve whereas Ryan has more touch, more feel, although if you get Devin Boyer at the net, his hands are really good. I think they'd have made a really good team."

Mudre finished fourth at district as a freshman and third as a sophomore but still is seeking his first state tournament win.

According to Thomas, Jacoby, a senior, would have rounded out the regular-season singles lineup with Boyer and Mudre. Boyer said he and Mudre practiced together almost daily in the offseason at Wickertree Tennis Club.

"Doubles is a little bit easier pressure-wise when you have a teammate. I think there's less stress involved," Boyer said. "Singles takes a lot more energy whereas doubles is a little bit more (about) strategy."

New Albany also hoped for its fifth consecutive Ohio Tennis Coaches Association district championship this spring. The OTCA state tournament was scheduled for Sunday, May 31, at Reynoldsburg.

The Eagles finished third at state last year and second each of the previous two seasons. They are 106-16 overall and 43-0 in the OCC-Capital Division in Thomas' seven seasons.

Not only was Boyer eager to add to his achievements this season, but he admitted drawing some motivation from helping New Albany remain one of the state's top programs despite having lost Cash and Jose to graduation.

"We lost five seniors so the main goal was to show we were still one of the top teams in Ohio," Boyer said. "We wanted to get back to the (OTCA) final four and win the conference and district, just to show we're still the same team."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

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